Google Analytics

Amazon Contextual Product Ads

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

EDITORIAL 05.10.10

Please contact the list owner of subscription and unsubscription at:


media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month october 05, edition 000643, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


Editorial is syndication of all daily- published newspaper Editorial at one place.












































































Where on Earth would you find a 4 am film show packed with audience, with many more viewers lined up for a 5 am screening? For that matter, which film exhibitor would schedule films at those unearthly hours? Well, sanity has to be kept aside when one deals with south megastar Rajnikanth's blockbusters. If his previous exploits that had the world gaping with astonishment as he dished out one mega-hit after the other, sending fans into a swoon that could come only if they had suddenly encountered an alien or god himself, wasn't enough, we now have Endhiran (Robot in Hindi and Telugu), a Tamil film that has kept film critics and bean counters busy since it released last week in 3,000 screens worldwide. Needless to say, it will generate several times more than the Rs 162 crore it cost to make. Even if one leaves room for the south Indian penchant for loud performances and glitzy décor, all of which are found in abundance in Rajnikanth's films, there has to be more to explain the phenomenon that he has become. Remember that he is no longer young; even at 60 years he is hardly the stereotype of a swashbuckling youngster who defies gravity when fighting a bunch of ruffians and generally trashes other laws of science and logic in delivering whistle-blowing performances. Yet, if the man continues to be reveled by millions and gets away with even the absurd, it's because he has created an image of a do-gooder not just on screen, but in real life as well. Rajnikanth's rise to superstardom from being a bus conductor is the stuff legends are made of, and well known. In the process, he has set new standards not just in films but in real life as well. From all records he has remained a down to earth person, not allowing the success, unmatched the world over, to conquer him. He is a role model for aspirants and stands out in a crowd of mediocres who already behave like they are god. Rajnikanth, therefore, is a lesson in humility that one wishes lesser accomplished people learnt. And, so, it is only appropriate that an actor of his stature becomes a medium to reflect the far reaching changes in Tamil films. From the basic Quick Gun Murugan type films, the industry has matured to create Robot that uses the latest state of art special effects seen in Hollywood films like Jurassic Park and Avatar. Such is his persona that it can single-handedly trigger a new wave in film making. He has raised the bar for quality in films across the country.

The Rajnikanth phenomenon has also underlined the commendable role being played by regional films in providing a direction and sense of purpose to film making. As an out-and-out commercial film megastar, if Rajnikanth has reached out through other language versions of his films to a wide array of audience beyond the south, there are those in other regional languages who are setting trends that the Hindi film industry will do well to emulate. The role of the Bengali and Malayalam film industries, led by legendary film makers, is much documented. What we should watch out for — as eagerly as we do for a new Rajnikanth film — is the progress of Bhojpuri films. In time to come, as this industry comes to grips with quality, it could set a new sort of trend. It already has a huge reach, and only needs a Rajnikanth-like figure to propel it to the top. 








The mowing down of seven elephants by a speeding goods train last week in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal has finally stirred the Government to take notice of the frequent jumbo deaths on rail tracks. Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh has decided to grant Rs 7 crore assistance package for developing forest infrastructure and Railway development work. The money will be spent to erect 10 watch towers at vulnerable points along the 168 km stretch that winds through the forest between New Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar station since 44 elephant corridors fall on the stretch, apart from building embankments, fencing and girders. Certainly, it is a welcome move as incidents of elephants being killed by trains have increased after the conversion of the stretch from metre gauge to broad gauge. He has also suggested upgrading an alternative track to the south of the forest and converting it to a double-line track as a long-term solution. To his credit, Mr Jairam Ramesh has been candid enough to admit that the tragedy was "all the more poignant" in the wake of the Environment Ministry's decision to declare the elephant as India's national heritage animal. However, one wish one could say that about the Railways Minister. It would seem Ms Mamata Banerjee, busy announcing new projects for West Bengal to gain political mileage, has little time to bother about animals getting slaughtered in the wild. Even after the elephant Task Force, set up by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to suggest ways to protect the endangered elephants, submitted a report showing as many as 150 elephants have died since 1987 on train tracks, Railway officials are yet to wake up from their slumber. Their insensitivity irks as they unabashedly claim that the driver did not slow down because the stretch is not among the ones identified as a vulnerable spot for elephants — as if to say, the mishap happened because the animals didn't follow traffic rules; too bad for them.

Most important, the Task Force report has raised serious concerns about the loss of elephant habitat. With villages and farms pushing closer to the edges of forests, incidents of man-elephant conflict are increasing in places with considerable pachyderm population like Chhattisgarh. Even as jumbos are losing the fight on possession of land and facing attrition, humans are gloating about development taking credit for expanding road and rail links and setting up of industrial and mining projects. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has already put the Indian elephant on its 2009 list of endangered animals. Mr Jairam Ramesh would do well to expedite the proposed National Elephant Conservation Authority, set up elephant villages as recommended by the Task Force and lay down clear guidelines to ensure greater protection to pachyderms. 







Steeped in ignorance, pseudo-secularists are busy doing what they do best: Deliberately misinterpreting the Ayodhya judgement

A miniscule minority of pseudo-secularists, atheists and agnostics which enjoys grossly disproportionate media space has begun to drum up opposition to the historic Allahabad High Court judgement in the Ayodhya case. This motley group of Hindu-baiters, which is blissfully ignorant of the laws that determine such cases pertaining to religious beliefs, customs and practices, is uncomfortable with the dignified response of both Hindus and Muslims to the verdict and is looking for opportunities to stir up trouble a la the film Peepli Live.

The opponents of the judgement think it is absurd for the court to treat Ramlalla as a juristic person and as a minor and to accept Hindu belief regarding the Janmasthan. They are unable to understand why different laws come into play when the court deals with the Hindu belief regarding Janmsathan and the Muslim arguments regarding the masjid. They also question the report of archaeologists and wonder how the High Court could have overlooked the demolition of the masjid and given a verdict in favour of the Hindus. 

The first objection relates to the court's finding that the deity at Ayodhya is a juristic person and that the place where the idol of Lord Ram is currently located is the Sri Ram Janmasthan. Those opposing this aspect of the judgement are people who are blissfully ignorant of the fact that Hindu beliefs, religious customs and practices are governed by a body of law called Hindu Law, just as Muslim beliefs and customs are governed by Mohammedan Law.

All matters pertaining to Hindu deities, temples, endowments, etc are determined from the days of the British Raj to the present by various aspects of Hindu Law. A person who has read Hindu Law of Religious and Charitable Trusts, the oft quoted treatise by the celebrated Chief Justice of India, BK Mukherjea, the Privy Council's judgement in Pramatha Nath Mullick Vs Pradyumna Kumar Mullick (1925), the Supreme Court's judgement in Bishwanath and another Vs Shri Thakur Radhabhallabhji ( 1967), the Allahabad High Court's Full Bench judgement in Jodhi Rai Vs Basdeo Prasad (1911), and, more recently, the Supreme Court's verdict in Dr M Ismail Farooqui Vs Union of India (1994) would be far more circumspect while dealing with this issue. 

For example, in Pramatha Nath Mullick Vs Pradyumna Kumar Mullick (1925), the Privy Council held that a Hindu Idol is, "according to long established authority founded upon the religious custom of Hindus, and recognition thereof by the courts of law, a juristic entity. It has a judicial status with power of suing and being sued". What the Privy Council said subsequently in this judgement has in a sense settled the law in this regard for close to a century. It said, "From the spiritual point of view, idol is the very embodiment of the Supreme Being, but with this aspect of the matter law is not concerned, in fact it is beyond the reach of law. In law, neither god nor any supernatural being can be a person. But so far as the deity or idol stands as the representative and symbol of the particular purpose indicated by donor, it can figure as a legal person."

In Jodhi Rai Vs Basdeo Prasad, the Allahabad High Court held that "a deity is like a minor" and the idol is a juristic person who can hold property. This is further reinforced by the Supreme Court's verdict in Bishwanath and another Vs Shri Thakur Radhabhallabhji and others in which the court said that idols are minors and their interest cannot be left in a lurch. No amount of quibbling by a miniscule minority of non-believers can ever alter this position which is fundamental to Hindu beliefs and customs. 

Those disappointed with the judgement wonder how the court overlooked the Muslim claim to the mosque which stood at that place for centuries. Also, they ask why the court overlooked the demolition in 1992. The Allahabad High Court has addressed the first of these objections by citing the Supreme Court's ruling in the Faruqui Case. The Supreme Court cited the Lahore High Court verdict in 'Mosque known as Masjid Shahid Ganj and Ors Vs Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee', in which the High Court held that where a mosque has been adversely possessed by non-Muslims, it lost its sacred character as a mosque. "Hence, the view that once a consecrated mosque, it remains always a place of worship as a mosque was not the Mahomedan Law of India as approved by Indian Courts. It was further held by the majority that a mosque in India was an immovable property and the right of worship at a particular place is lost when the right to property on which it stands is lost by adverse possession." This was approved by the Privy Council. 

As regards the second objection vis-à-vis the act of demolition, it must be borne in mind that the criminal cases are being dealt with by another court. It is absurd to confuse the civil suits before the High Court with the criminal cases pertaining to the demolition. Further, it is ridiculous to say that the sins of some vandals should visit the entire Hindu community for perpetuity.

The Supreme Court has settled this issue in the Faruqui Case. The court said it would be pertinent to bear in mind that the persons responsible for the demolition "were some miscreants who cannot be identified and equated with the entire Hindu community", and therefore, "the act of vandalism so perpetrated by the miscreants cannot be treated as an act of the entire Hindu community".

Also being challenged is the report of the Archaeological Survey of India. The opponents of the verdict do not know, or pretend not to know, that the excavations at Ayodhya were supervised by two judges; that all parties were given the right to park their representatives (including archaeologists and lawyers) at the site; that the court directed that the ASI team and the labourers employed at the site should comprise both Hindus and Muslims and it was so. 

Ignorance of law is no defence. But going by the ill-informed discourse that is on after the Ayodhya verdict, it appears as if ignorance is the best excuse to pontificate on the judgement and to pour scorn on the law and those who interpret it. 








The principal contenders for power in Bihar, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav, are 'Mandalites' with a different approach to 'Market'. How best they marry the objectives of 'Mandal' and 'Market' will determine their party's fate in the Assembly poll

Beneath the cacophony of the campaign for the coming Assembly election, the main contenders for power in Bihar are engaged in a search for the harmonisation of 'Mandal' and 'Market'. Both Mr Nitish Kumar and Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav are 'Mandalites' — the difference has lain in their approach to market. Mr Yadav during his reign built a wall between the two, saying that politics had nothing to do with development — qouta for OBCs was meant for the sheer joy of snatching power from the 'upper' castes, not for any material gains.

In the last few years Mr Yadav has debunked his own theory. He is now asking people to vote for him on the merit of the 'turnaround story' of the Indian Railways under his charge, with a promise to repeat the 'miracle' in Bihar. To look more convincing, he has become his party's chief ministerial candidate, virtually making a scapegoat of his obsequious wife and proxy Rabri Devi for the economic desolation during his reign. Nevertheless, his self-demolition of the Mandal-Market wall implies that both Mr Nitish Kumar and he are essentially competing for who can harmonise Mandal and market better.

With even the partial economic and social transformation of Bihar that he has brought about in the last five years, Mr Nitish Kumar seems ahead of Mr Yadav in the competition. But popular swings in elections are sometimes known to defy logic. Economic success may not always translate into political success. Non-economic factors can intervene.

In the November 2005 Assembly election, Mr Yadav had over 23 per cent of the total votes polled, and his vote is overwhelmingly political, not economic. He draws his strength chiefly from the 'Great Churning' of Bihar's society he engineered, bringing the marginalised onto the stage and front rows of the political theatre and relegating the 'upper' castes to the rear rows. Although his Rashtriya Janata Dal's strength in the Assembly has been on an unremitting downslide — from 167 in 1995 to 122 in 2000 to 74 in February 2005 to 54 in November 2005 — there are more than a hundred plus constituencies where its candidates were runners-up in the last election. In a House of 243, a party with 54 winners and 106 runners-up makes a formidable challenge.

Mr Yadav's plan to consolidate the anti-Nitish Kumar vote for turning his runners-up into winners has been realised only partially, with Mr Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party on board but the Congress out of any alliance, is hoping to make up for it with 'sabotage vote' accruing from fissures in Janata Dal United. And though the Congress is shunning him now, he is hopeful the party will be on board after election to keep the NDA out of power. 

However, the LJP, JD(U) dissidents and the Congress can provide Mr Yadav only additional strength. His main strength has to flow from himself. And his main strength in previous elections has been his charismatic appeal. With his electoral basket shrinking, his faith in his magical powers to move the masses purely on the mantra of political empowerment appears to be shaken. He has, therefore, added the development agenda to it.

With the memories of economic slide and rampant extortionism during his reign still fresh in the minds of the people, he finds it hard to convince them that he too has a vision and the expertise to turn Bihar into a paradise. The Railways 'turnaround' story seems too distant and apocryphal to them. Mr Yadav's image is of someone who knows how to get votes but knows not how to administer. Mr Nitish Kumar has shown he can do both. The improvements in Bihar in recent years have been amazing. Between 2004-05 and 2008-09 the State's economy has grown at an annual rate of 11.35 per cent against 3.5 per cent between 1999-2000 and 2003-04. 

Although both of them have shared political life in various socialist incarnations and Mr Yadav was the senior of the two, the contrast between them after Mr Nitish Kumar's five years in the office could not have been sharper. The aura Mr Yadav exudes is motionless, static, otherworldly and stale. Today he finds his swashbuckling rustic persona more of a liability than an asset in a growth-hungry Bihar. Mr Nitish Kumar has injected seriousness and purpose into politics. He has raised the bar for chief ministerial performance. He has changed the language and grammar of political messaging. Mr Yadav's bafflement in speaking it is palpable. Sparkles of rhetorical black humour just won't do.

Mr Yadav has proved to be his own nemesis. His political empowerment was never linked to economic empowerment. It was partial to two communities — the Yadavs and Muslims — and within them to cliques that were not interested in the common good of their communities but in their own acquisitive plots. 

Mr Nitish Kumar has broad-based the benefits with the political inclusion of 'lower' backwards in both the communities. And he has taken transformational initiatives — enrolment of out-of-school children, skill development, employment generation outside agriculture — to integrate political empowerment with economic empowerment. The outcome of this endeavour is what will determine the pace of harmonisation of Mandal with market. The marginalised in Mr Nitish Kumar's scheme of things must not only be enabled to join the political mainstream but also the economic mainstream.

As Mr Yadav is failing to sell himself as a "Nitish se bhi bada vikas purush" he is most likely to fall back on his Muslim-Yadav axis. However, he cannot be sure of his base being intact there. The Yadavs have broad-based their patronage. And he no more has the sole claim to 'protection vote' from Muslims because of the total absence of communal violence in the five years of NDA administration as well.

Where Mr Yadav may derive some benefit could be from the relentless propaganda by JD(U) dissidents, mostly 'upper' caste, that Mr Kumar has stifled inner-party democracy and that he has a plan in his next term to introduce a legislation to grant secure occupancy to share-croppers which will mean deprivation to mostly 'upper' castes of their agricultural land. To capitalise on 'high' caste alienation from Mr Nitish Kumar, Mr Yadav has promised 10 per cent job quota to them. The challenge before Mr Nitish Kumar is to make even the 'upper' castes accept that the inclusion of the marginalised classes into the economic mainstream — a convergence of the objectives of Mandal and market — is for their good as well as the good of Bihar. 

--The writer is working on a book on Bihar politics and is the editor of The Navhind Times, Goa.







Many progressive Muslim countries have abolished the institution of waqf as it does not serve any purpose in modern times

Following the Allahabad High Court judgement on Ayodhya on September 30, many an expert comment was expressed, especially on television news channels. A fairly common thread was that a waqf property could not be parted by human beings, since it was owned by Allah. No non-Muslim commentator appeared aware of what really is a waqf, how the property came into Muslim hands and was then transferred to Allah.

Literally speaking, the word 'waqf' means, standing, stopping or, halting. According to the Dictionary of Islam by Thomas Patrick Hughes, the term waqf signifies the appropriation or dedication of a property to charitable uses and the service of god; an endowment. Professor Asaf AA Fyzee, in his book, Outlines of Muhammadan Law, has quoted the traditional source of Imam Bukhari, according to whom the earliest waqf was that of Caliph Umar II. This waqf became the basis of the law on the subject. To quote: Ibn Omar reported, 'Omar ibn al-Khattab got land in Khaybar; so he came to consult the Prophet. The Prophet advised him to make the property inalienable, and give the profit from it in charity.

The institution of waqf gradually grew into a means of raising revenue to promote Islam. The Oxford History of Islam, OUP, New York, 1999, characterises waqf as an Islamic source of revenue. To quote: The ulema were favoured by such opportunities to acquire properties through waqfs. Ulema families lasted long in power and thus, a small group dominated the religious establishment. From 1703 to 1839, eleven Istanbul families accounted for twenty-nine of the fifty-eight shaykh al-Islams.

In due course, the waqf developed into an instrument of aggression. Professor Joseph Schacht of Columbia University, New York, in his Introduction to Islamic Law, wrote: The waqf is a good example of the composite nature of the raw material of Islamic law and of the qualitatively new character which its institutions acquired; the waqf has one of its roots in the contributions to the holy war, another in the pious foundations of the Eastern Churches.

The institution, however, was open to assessment and change was required by the place and time. In different countries, it tended to be treated differently. Schacht has described the various changes: They started modestly with the Ottoman Law of Family Rights of 1917 and got extended to Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Trans-Jordan. Then from 1920 onwards, the impetus of modernist jurisprudence and of the legislative movement inspired by it, came from Egypt. The new legislation inspired similar movements in Sudan, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Libya. The Egyptian Act of 1946 served as a model for the Lebanese law of 1947 on waqf, and a Syrian Act of 1949 anticipated the Egyptian Act of 1952 in abolishing the private or family waqfs.

The French colonies were more dynamic, especially after getting their independence. Tunisia under President Habib Bourguiba took the drastic step of abolishing waqfs in 1956. The application of English legal reasoning to institutions of Islamic law occasionally led to difficulties, as in the case of waqf. An essential feature of the Hanafi waqf is the permanence of its purpose. If the beneficiaries are, for instance, the descendants of the founder, the poor or some other purpose must be appointed as subsidiary beneficiaries. The Privy Council, however, in Abu Fata case held in 1894 that the ultimate reversion to the poor was illusory, and that this kind of family waqf had to be treated as simple gift of inalienable life interests to remote unborn generations of descendents.

Prof Fyzee has also commented at length on the developments in waqf across several countries. He wrote that the institution will be better understood if we take into consideration the enormous extent of waqf land or, in the possessions of the Dead Hand — in the various countries of Islam. In the Turkey of 1925, three-fourths of the arable land was endowed as waqf. At the end of the 19th century, one half of the cultivable land in Algiers was dedicated. Similarly, in Tunis, one-third and in Egypt one eighth of the cultivated soil was in the ownership of god. But it was already realised by the beginning of the 20th century — first by France and later by Turkey and Egypt — that the possession of the Dead Hand spelled ruin. The institution of waqf was in some respect a handicap to development. Fyzee went on to say that the religious motive of waqf is the origin of the legal fiction that waqf property belongs to god; the economic ruin that it brings about is indicated by the significant phrase "The Dead Hand". Waqf to some extent ameliorates poverty, but it has also its dark side. In India, instances of the mismanagement of waqfs, of the worthlessness of mutawallis (managers) and of the destruction of waqf property have often come before the courts.

In India, waqfs were established by Muslim rulers and their followers by confiscating Hindu lands and properties. The waqf makes the Muslims, the largest urban property owners in north India. Some estimates are large. For example, over half the land in Jaunpur city belongs to waqfs. Nearly all the land on the hillocks of Kannauj is waqf property. According to a veteran mutawalli based in the Jamalpur locality, waqf owns some 13 per cent of Ahmedabad. Kolkata exceeds five per cent and Patna eight. 

If the involvement of god by the Indian Waqf Inquiry Committee of 1976 was legitimate, how was it that Muslim countries like Egypt, Turkey, Algeria and Morocco dared to abolish their waqfs? On the other hand, if the involvement of god is legitimate, does it behove a secular state to be the guardian of god's property? In India, the waqf enjoys a unique advantage in that it is above all other laws. No other legislation can interfere with what a waqf does under its own law. For example, the Urban Ceiling Act can apply to all urban centres but not to waqf properties.


Everything written above points in one direction and that is the summary abolition of waqfs in India. It was a colonial instrument of raising revenues for the ulema in order that oligarchic regimes could keep their grip over power.






The visit of an all-Party delegation to Jammu & Kashmir was very significant because only such a step by the national and regional parties from outside Jammu & Kashmir could provide a healing touch to the victims of ongoing conflict in the Valley. The major advantage of such an all-party visit was tall leaders from outside Jammu & Kashmir could collectively convey a clear message to the Kashmiris that the whole country cared about them and was interested in finding solutions to the vexed and complicated Kashmir dispute. Further, this all-party visit provided an opportunity to leaders — especially to that of regional parties who have a very peripheral and superficial understanding of the genesis of the dispute — to observe the Kashmir reality from close quarters. On the other hand, the local leaders and civil society got a chance to convey to the visiting leaders their actual feelings, the problems they faced and what aggravated people at the grass roots level. The post-visit consultations and discussions among the parties and leaders led to the concretisation of Government responses and on September 27, 2010 the Government of India announced an '8-point package for valley peace'. Such a first step by the Central Government has not created any controversy or dissent among the national and regional parties whose leaders visited Jammu & Kashmir. 

It is essential to describe the 'Eight-Point Peace Packages' before embarking on any critical analysis of the usefulness or limitations of such a peace package. The Union Government on September 27, announced that it will hold dialogue with the Kashmiris. A day after the peace proposal was announced, the Prime Minister also asked for a report on employment-generating programmes undertaken in Kashmir. It deserves to be stated that the Union Government had appointed 'interlocutors' in the past, but no progress was made in spite of messages conveyed by the interlocutors. Will it be a repeat story of the past? It may not be the case this time, although Syed Ali Shah Geelani, allegedly involved in mobilising the stone-pelting youth, described the initiative as 'eyewash'. Home Minister P Chidambaram has announced that these interlocutors would be under the leadership of eminent persons — probably a 'non-Congress' leader would lead the interlocutors. It is quite clear that the Government wants an all-party consensus and with the political credibility and high status of interlocutors 'such a dialogue' with all sections of Jammu & Kashmir society would carry weight and conviction. This is a break from the past when interlocutors were appointed on the basis of their proximity to the ruling party or coalition. 

Further, the ruling and the Opposition parties in Jammu & Kashmir have jointly asked for the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act or limit its applicability only to a notified 'disturbed area'. It is important to understand that long-term deployment of armed forces including paramilitary forces in any region of India, whether Jammu & Kashmir or North East, armed with special laws like AFSPA creates a lot of inconvenience for the local population and in turn, breeds hostility against the men in Khaki. Hence, the prolonged presence of the armed forces has been a vexing reason among a large section of the local population in Kashmir Valley. Hence, Mr Chidambaram stated on September 27: "The notifications have been made under the Jammu & Kashmir Armed Forces Special Powers Act. However, as a matter of prudence and practice, these decisions are taken after the unified command advises the State Government. Therefore, we will request the State Government to convene a meeting of the unified command and review their deployment, review the notifications. So let us wait for them to do the review first."

It is pertinent to bring here the whole context of Kashmir dispute to understand that in spite of grievances and complaints of the local population, Army and paramilitary forces have to be stationed to fight an undeclared war launched by Pakistan against India with a view to unite Kashmiris under the control of the Pakistani state. The Kashmir problem has remained complex due to inept and directionless handling of the situation by the Union Government of India. The Centre and its nominees, the State Governors, have dismissed Jammu & Kashmir elected Governments in the past for purely personal and partisan purposes. Many a time, the Governors were from outside the State, who tried to follow their personal agendas without the support and consent of the elected Governments. Then, State Assembly elections were 'rigged'. Real elected democratic Governments in Jammu & Kashmir have been in power only after the developments of mid-Nineties. The Government of India, beginning with the BJP-Ied NDA and followed by Manmohan Singh-led UPA, have functioned within a democratic framework. This is the opportune moment to deal with Jammu & Kashmir by working through democratic processes as solutions offered by the Union Government will carry more conviction. It is for the elected representatives of Jammu & Kashmir to politically isolate the separatist and mobilise their own social constituencies to create normalcy for economic development. 

The central Government is responsible for dealing with external interventionists in Kashmir. The western powers keep mum regarding Pakistan interference because they have been always dependent on Pakistan Army to fight battles on their behalf. US President Barack Obama has always stated that a 'stable Pakistan' is in the interest of the western Governments. What has the American President to offer Pakistan as a quid pro quo for its support in Afghanistan war except Kashmir? The Pakistan Army knows that they cannot occupy Indian territories through a war and they know America cannot dictate any terms to India despite the two countries coming together over the civil nuclear deal. The only solution to Kashmir is that India and Pakistan have to recognise the Line of Actual Control and make borders of two separated Kashmir really 'soft' and easy for travel and trade on both sides of the Line. The moment Pakistan Army realises the futility of war with India for re-territorialisation of Kashmir, the Geelanis, the Lones, the Mirwaizs would collapse like a house of cards. And then, the democratically-elected representatives of Jammu & Kashmir and the Union Government can resolve any conflict in that part of the country. 








WELL begun is half done, goes the English idiom. The spectacular opening ceremony for the 19th Commonwealth Games in New Delhi could well set the tone for the rest of the Games. For three hours, some 6,000 performers fused light, colour and sound to present a memorable show.


No doubt, low expectations arising out of the news reports of tardy preparations and shoddy construction of the facilities, has resulted in a euphoric response to the opening ceremony. But it will prove to be a crucial morale booster for those who are working to make the Games a success and who were, no doubt, disheartened by the torrent of criticism in the run up to the Games.


The people of Delhi may have had the advantage of being hosts for the show, but they also paid a price in terms of the disruption of their normal lives. Not only were the markets shut, but even the eatries which are usually available through holidays were closed. This was because of the over- riding concerns for security.


While there have been no specific threats to the Games, the Mumbai attack of November 2008 remained at the back of the minds of the security planners.


So, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, where many VIPs were expected to be present for the opening ceremony,

was turned into a veritable fortress. The city, too saw an unusual concentration of police personnel with even the Air Force maintaining a discrete vigil.


It is important for the Games to be seen as they are— a sporting contest. They are not necessarily a statement on the country's prowess or some kind of a " coming out." Yet few will deny that they have taught us invaluable lessons on the need for more effective higher management of projects in the country.







BY ARRESTING the principal and three teachers from Kolkata's La Martiniere School for harassing 13 year old Rouvanjit Rawla— who committed suicide in February this year— the police has for the first time sent a signal against corporal punishment and the ill- treatment of children in schools.


But in no way can we say that justice has been served to Rouvanjit and his family as the teachers were charged under bailable offences like " voluntarily causing hurt" and " assault with the intent to dishonor the person". In fact, the arrests seemed to have been a bit of a farce as the accused were let off on bail by afternoon.


The police had enough reason to slap the charge of abetment of suicide especially as an enquiry by the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights had asserted that Rouvanjit was driven to suicide as a result of the incessant harassment that he suffered in school at the hands of the group of teachers and the principal over many months.


One recongnises that abetment of suicide is a strong charge and the degree of harassment that caused it, is a deeply subjective matter, especially if it concerns a child. But by letting the accused off lightly, the police action will fail to deter such acts in the future.







YOU can depend on our political parties to convert a simple case of cybersquatting — where a person registers a website in the name of a famous entity even before that entity books it— into an issue of grave national importance. Anybody who was in charge of BJP's Internet division should have booked the domain name www. bjp. com a long time ago.


That person did not, and the person who had bought that domain name mischievously redirected that website to the Congress' website.


But since our politicians, even the learned ones, perhaps have no idea of how the internet works, have seen this as a conspiracy by the Congress. Equally, a flummoxed Congress has no idea how to react.


Conspiracy theories, legal notices, allegations and counter- allegations are now flying. But no one bothered to even find out who the real owner of the domain name is. It has became the stuff of comedy whose serious subtext is the digital illiteracy of our political class.








IT IS widely accepted that the global power balance is shifting from the Euro- Atlantic area to Asia, with China and India the principal emerging powers. How does Russia, which straddles both Europe and Asia, position itself in the developing scenario? Russia's principal strategic challenge has come from the US, inducing it to reinvigorate its ties with China, but the perceived decline in US power accompanied by the spectacular rise of China in recent years, coupled with the sluggish pace of its own resurgence, presents Russia with a complex challenge.


Russia's relations with India remain politically stable but lack economic sinews, whereas India's relations with the US have developed both political and economic muscle. With President Obama's visit to India in November and that of President Medevedev in December in mind, and taking into account the latest developments of our own relations with China, how should the Russia- India- China( RIC) dialogue be assessed?




This dialogue was initiated at a time when the world seemed to have become unipolar, with unilateralism, pre- emptive strikes, regime change, humanitarian intervention, violation of the principles of sovereignty, NATO expansion etc as its hallmarks. This trilateral arrangement amongst three major non- western powers with a more multilateral view of international relations was intended to promote a more desirable global equilibrium.


Russia, India and China, as emerging economies, populous and geographically huge, seemed a credible combination to disprove that history had ended with the Soviet Union's demise and the end of the Cold War. In theory these three countries forging a true partnership could start a new chapter in world history.


The promise of the RIC dialogue has, however, not been realised. The validity of most of the premises underlying it has been shaken. The unipolar phase of international relations has ended sooner than expected. The embroilment of the US in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has exposed the limits of its military power. If a debacle in Afghanistan occurs, the blow to US prestige would be immense, crippling its war on terror.


The 2008 financial crisis that hit the US has enfeebled it economically and cut its appetite and capacity for unilateral actions abroad. Under President Obama the US is favouring multilateral solutions to global problems. He has defused the ABM dispute with Russia, recommenced disarmament talks with it, with agreement on a follow- up to Start 1 Treaty.


Further NATO expansion has been put on hold as part of re- setting relations with Russia.


China's own international conduct is now causing concern, weakening the positive basis of the RIC dialogue as a reaction to truculent power politics. China is asserting its territorial claims in the South China Sea more aggressively, causing concern to littoral states. It has unilaterally declared this area as constituting its " core interest", implying it is nonnegotiable, and resists multi- lateral discussions to resolve differences.


The projection by China that its rise will be peaceful is being punctured by its own actions, as its recent confrontation with Japan over Senkaku Islands shows. Since the RIC dialogue began China's economic rise has been spectacular, with its economy now overtaking Japan's in size. Economic and financial interdependence with the US has increased to a point virtually of fusion. China's self- confidence has bounded and nationalist feelings are being fed at home.




China, which came into the RIC dialogue reluctantly, has less need for it in geo- strategic terms today to assert its global role, counter US hegemony, and advocate a more consensual, multi- lateral approach to international affairs.


With the perception of declining US power and China encroaching into the space being vacated, and with enormous financial resources at China's disposal to support the geographical expansion of its influence aimed at securing assured access to vital natural resources to fuel its inexorable rise, the basis of the RIC dialogue has changed both from the Chinese perspective and the Indian, and should induce a review of Russian thinking.


This despite the Russia- China equation gathering strength in recent years with increased trade volumes, energy deals and greater openeness by Russia to allow China to harness its natural resources for the growth of the Chinese economy.


In one key respect, the weakest participant in the RIC dialogue is India.


Although a rapidly growing economy with a huge market, with a capacity to provide skilled human resources to sustain growth in the fast ageing industrial countries, and generally acknowledged as a future pole in a multi- polar world, India, although in the G- 20, is not a permanent member of the Security Council, which ipso facto limits its role in a RIC combination to develop joint strategies to influence the debate and decisions on issues of global peace and security. Another dissonant factor is China's revived claims on Arunachal Pradesh, provocative questioning of India's sovereignty over J& K , the expansion of its hold over POK as part of its energy security plans, and laying the foundations of its naval presence in the Indian Ocean area.


This has seriously eroded India- China " trust" even as the bilateral trade has shot up and on issues of climate change and WTO matters the two countries work together. China also opposes India's permanent membership of the Security Council, unlike Russia.




The India- Russia equation within the RIC remains solid, with the two countries having clear long term geo- political interests in common. India is probably the only big country that sees Russia's resurgence as a vital factor in a maintaining a stable balance in international relations. US and Europe will remain powerful actors on the global stage for years to come and China is rapidly becoming the second most powerful national entity. The space created by Russia's decline is also being filled up by China. Russia's rise puts constraints both on NATO and China, and widens India's strategic options, even as India continues to deepen its ties with the US. India and Russia have common interests in combating terrorism and extremist religious ideologies causing ravages in the Afghanistan- Pakistan region, with toxic fall- out on Central Asia and southern Russia.


Russia's recent initiative to form the Russia- Afghanistan- Pakistan- Tajikstan group to deal with this problem constitutes a wrinkle in the so far smooth India- Russia understanding on Af- Pak/ Central Asian issues. Pakistan is bound to see in this exclusion of India by Russia, whatever be the Russian interpretation, as an endorsement of its efforts to deny India a role in Afghanistan. Along with China's ambitions in Afghanistan, this weakens further the strategic underpinnings of the RIC dialogue. In any case, Russia's insistence to broaden RIC to BRIC by including Brazil, about which India had reservations initially, showed that Russia had concluded that RIC's potential was not being fulfilled and new life had to be infused into an arrangement of non- western powers by including Brazil.


The RIC dialogue was a grand idea that failed to live up to expectations because the conditions in which it was set up changed rapidly. The question is should the RIC dialogue now be aimed at moderating Chinese ambitions and behaviour as much as diluting the US and western grip over the way the international political and economic/ financial system works?


The writer is a former Foreign Secretary









BIHAR'S political scenario in the run-up to the state assembly election is completely different from what it looked like during the last polls five years ago.


Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Ram Vilas Paswan, who had no love lost between them in 2005, are now allies having a common objective to oust the Nitish Kumar government. They have chosen to sink their differences to put up a united fight in the elections.


But there is still a question mark on whether the average workers of both the parties will display similar unity on the ground. The RJD is contesting from 168 seats while LJP is putting up candidates in 75 constituencies out of the total 243 seats. The seat sharing has, however, not pleased everybody in their parties. The LJP cadres feel that their party will be reduced to playing second fiddle to the RJD which will emerge as the dominant partner if their alliance comes to power.


Paswan is trying to allay such fears. He says that LJP will keep a 'check-and-balance' on the government. "We will set a timeframe for our government to fulfil each and every promise made by our alliance during the election," he said. " If something has to be done in six months, it will be done within that period." Lalu also swears by the unity of both the parties. " The RJD and the LJP are not contesting 168 and 75 seats separately," he said.


" Our alliance is fighting all the 243 seats together in the polls." During last year's Lok Sabha polls, there was no unity between the RJD and LJP workers who fought with each other at many places. But Paswan asserts that things have changed and the workers of the two parties had a perfect understanding which was manifested during the by- elections to the 18 assembly seats last year in which the alliance performed better than the National Democratic Alliance ( NDA).


Political observers believe that coordination between the workers of both the parties would be crucial for the alliance. They say that Lalu and Paswan may present a picture of unity but it is the unity of their cadres across the state that matters the most.


In 2005, it was basically the ego- clash between Lalu and Paswan that forced two elections in the state and paved the way for the NDA victory. In the first election in February, Paswan had emerged as a " kingmaker" but he put a precondition before Lalu for giving support to his government. He wanted a Muslim leader to take over as the chief minister in place of Rabri Devi, an idea Lalu was averse to.


The imbroglio resulted in another election in November which helped NDA emerge victorious with a clear majority.


Since then, Nitish set out with an agenda of development to consolidate his base in the state.


Five years later, he is credited with having brought about a remarkable turnaround in Bihar.


Paswan believes that his stand on the chief ministership issue after the last assembly elections was taken according to the circumstances in those days. But this time, he says the RJD- LJP combine will drive the NDA out of power.


It is generally believed that Nitish's development agenda had compelled Lalu and Paswan to bury their acrimonious past.


This had never happened in any assembly election in the past. In fact, they had always chosen to follow separate political paths.


But the landslide victory of the NDA in the parliamentary elections last year apparently made the duo realise that Nitish could be challenged only through their combined efforts now.


Lalu and Paswan apparently know that they have to swim or sink together to stay afloat in Bihar's political waters now.



BOLLYWOOD veteran Om Puri is a self- proclaimed Congress supporter by heart but he would not mind campaigning for Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar in the upcoming state assembly elections.


Puri, who was in the state recently, said he would certainly campaign if he was invited by Nitish. The actor is apparently impressed with the development in the state in the recent years. But Puri has found little change in Gaya which he visited after more than 15 years. He had last come to Gaya during the shooting of a film by Gautam Ghosh in the early 1990s. Even after so many years, Puri found the city dirty and its roads in a decrepit condition.


Somebody told him that Gaya town was represented in the Bihar assembly by Prem Kumar who happened to be the road construction minister in the Nitish government. Puri hoped that the minister would shower some " prem ( love)" on his constituency.


It was not clear if Puri would campaign for Prem too on Nitish's request since he was contesting again from the Gaya seat as the NDA nominee.



SUNNY Deol may have been going through a lean phase in his career lately but that has not diminished his star appeal in Bihar. The action star, who was in Patna to inaugurate a private television channel last week, received a tumultuous reception from his fans.


Sunny was in the get- up of a Sikh character that he is playing in his forthcoming home production, Yamla, Pagla, Deewana co- starring his father Dharmendra and brother Bobby.


His presence caused a massive traffic jam in the Raja Bazar locality of the state capital for hours. The police had to use batons on the restive fans to bring the situation under control.


Pleased by the response, Sunny tried to mouth his dialogues from films like Damini and Gadar . He also promised that he would bring his father and brother during promotion of their film in December.


Sunny had last come to Patna seven years ago to promote his home production, Shaheed but at that time he had no idea that he had such loyal fans in Bihar.


FOR many years Bihar was represented in Bollywood only by male actors like Shatrughan Sinha, Shekhar Suman and Manoj Bajpayee. But now, things are beginning to change.


Two girls from the state, Shalini Vats and Neha Sharma, have made it to the mainstream Hindi cinema as leading ladies recently. Vats, a theatre artiste from Patna, earned kudos for her role in Aamir Khan's Peepli Live while Sharma's debutmaking film, Crook is being released worldwide next Friday.


Both of them were in their home state recently to underline their roots. Sharma, who hails from Bhagalpur, came to Patna to promote her film along with film maker Mahesh Bhatt and co- star Emraan Hashmi last Saturday.


Besides these debutantes, Shatrughan Sinha's daughter Sonakshi Sinha was another Bihari actress who made a successful debut recently opposite Salman Khan in this year's biggest hit, Dabangg . Another Patna girl who has managed to make her presence felt is Neetu Chandra who has done a handful of movies since making her debut in Akshay Kumar- John Abraham starrer, Garam Masala . Looks like Bihari girls have finally managed to break the glass ceiling in the tinsel town.









The perennially shifting world of Pakistani politics seems to be in even greater flux than usual. First, there was the crisis meeting last week between army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari. Given the multiple problems facing the current Pakistan Peoples Party-led ruling alliance and its rather lacklustre response to them, the nature of the meeting is not difficult to guess. Then, more recently, former military ruler Pervez Musharraf claimed that Pakistan was on the brink of another coup and called for a greater constitutional role for the army in the governance of the country. 


These developments are different aspects of Islamabad's ongoing crisis of credibility. Musharraf may have made a habit of offering unsolicited advice from his exile in London, but this time it may not be all bluster. Over the past few weeks, several commentators within Pakistan have also dwelt on the possibility of a change at the top. These apprehensions are a telling comment on the cyclical nature of Pakistani politics and the all-too-familiar phase it finds itself in right now. 


Islamabad's rather apathetic response to the floods that have devastated the country is the latest in a long line of political missteps. After the solidarity shown by the political establishment to bring back democracy and the PPP combine's subsequent rise to power, familiar problems have set in. Instead of utilising the opportunity to focus on governance, strengthening the institutions of democracy and thus offering a genuine, effective alternative to the military, there has been recourse to short-term political manoeuvring in a throwback to the past. It is no coincidence that the Pakistani economy has nosedived since 2008. 


In contrast, the military has been at the forefront of flood response. In popular perception it has, therefore, appeared to uphold its reputation as an effective institution, a foil to civilian authority. By reading the administration the riot act and demanding the removal of corrupt officials as he is reported to have done, Kayani has made his willingness to crack the whip abundantly clear. However, he will perhaps be content to remain the power behind the throne. Given the host of problems spawned by the floods, this is a bad time for anyone to be the visible face of the government. The army has, in any case, already increased its role to the point where it controls defence and foreign as well as, increasingly, economic policy. What the latest round of speculation shows up is the political establishment's contribution to the country's seeming inability to consolidate the forces of democracy.







Aweek ago, most people would have had an overwhelming sense of relief had the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony just gone off without any glitches. But, on Sunday, what 60,000 spectators in the packed Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and millions of television viewers across the globe got was a magnificent collage of lights, colours, sounds and highoctane razzle-dazzle. Showcasing 5,000 years of Indian culture, on display were drums from 10 different corners of the country, dancers representing different classical styles, the heritage of yoga, a montage of tribal arts and vivid sights from everyday life. A cacophony of rhythm and beats that yet cohered, the opening ceremony captured the spirit of a vibrant, diverse country. It was a grand showcasing of India as a carnivalesque tropical democracy. 


There were hiccups in the run-up to the Games. But if the opening ceremony is any indication, the challenges appear to have been surmounted and the Games look slated to go off smoothly. As many of the visiting foreign athletes and dignitaries have affirmed, the facilities provided are world-class. As a spin-off of the Games, sporting standards in the country are bound to improve manifold while the national capital will inherit impressive infrastructure to meet the growing needs of its residents. Delhi has so far played the good host and people have come together to actively support the unprecedented security and logistical arrangements. However, the primary task now is to stage the Games well, and to keep the focus squarely where it really belongs: on sport. If the event promotes people's participation in an augmented sporting culture, the Commonwealth Games 2010 would have secured its legacy.









India has done well from globalisation. No historic transformation can occur with only gains and no losses, on which more below. But on net reckoning, India, like many other developing countries, has gained. Despite the dire predictions of radical theories of imperialism, the old Ricardian theory of comparative advantage has asserted itself, albeit in a dynamic form. Today, it is the developed world that is haunted by the spectre of free trade, not the developing world. 


However, the benefits of globalisation have accrued only to one part of India: the India of IT parks and financial markets, businessmen and traders, corporate leaders and executives and, yes, also the white-collar workers in new corporate hubs like Gurgaon, Whitefields or Rajerhat, and their blue-collar counterparts in the smart new factories. Let us call this globalised India. 


Then there is the other India: Bharat as we once used to call it. The India of small farmers, of tribals clinging to their disappearing forests in Orissa, of landless Dalits living in the shadow of upper caste atrocities, of shivering Bihari workers building roads in the frozen deserts of Ladakh. It is another world, till recently untouched by globalisation. 


Now, global competition and insatiable hunger for profits are driving globalised India into a headlong collision with this other India over the right to land and other natural resources. Clashes over land, the forests that grow on it and the mineral resources that lie beneath it have become almost daily fare. From Nandigram and Singur to the forests of Orissa and the Chotanagpur Plateau, from Karnataka's illegal mines to the farmers protesting against an expressway in Noida, land has emerged the great Indian fault line of the early 21st century. 


Ominously, the frequency and intensity of these clashes are growing across the country. Often, though fortunately not always, the 'law and order' machinery of the state has backed globalised India in its onslaught on the other India. In a recent notice to the UP government relating to land acquisition in 
Noida, the Supreme Court described such partisan government intervention as state-sponsored terrorism. The Naxalites thrive on such partisan state violence and the sullen anger it generates in the other India. It creates the support base for their violent confrontation with the state. 


Now, with great foresight, Rahul Gandhi and his mother, the leader of the Congress, are positioning themselves to represent this same constituency in the democratic process. You don't need rocket science to see the underlying arithmetic. This other India is by far the largest constituency in this country. But there is more at stake here than the rise of an individual political leader. Mobilisation of the other India within the democratic space is probably the single greatest political challenge of our times. If politicians of the democratic process fail, then the Maoists gain. Thus, the fault line between globalised India and the other India also marks the dividing line between the politics of violence and the path of non-violence. 


Is there a possible path of peaceful dispute resolution on the question of land? The answer is yes. The principle is really quite simple. Turn the potential losers from land acquisition into a support base of winners. If you wish to acquire someone's land, don't coerce her or try to rip her off. Instead make her an offer attractive enough to induce her to sell. In countries with well-developed and competitive land markets, this is how it works. This is also the principle adopted by multilateral agencies when they support public projects requiring land acquisition: the displaced persons must be compensated enough to be better off after displacement than before. The coercive approach leads to conflict between winners and losers, and sometimes every one becomes a loser as in Singur. In the inducement approach, everyone becomes a winner; there are no losers. 


We have examples before us of how the two approaches work. Singur is a classic example of a coercive approach that failed. But in Sanad, where the Nano project moved from Singur, you have an example of the inducement approach. Handsome compensation for farmers led to a win-win outcome for all. Other successful examples include the Mohali international airport in Punjab, the Cochin international airport in Kerala and the profarmer land acquisition policy of the Haryana government. 


Given our inequities, our law needs to be tilted in favour of the weak, with mandatory and harsh punitive provisions against attempts at regulatory capture by the strong. It is promising that lawmakers are beginning to get their act together on the land question. The group of ministers reviewing the draft Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill, 2010 reportedly reached a consensus that 26 per cent of annual profits must be set aside for displaced families. This is quite radical in the Indian context. 


There will be strong resistance to such initiatives from globalised India. But if politicians hold firm, they will successfully mobilise the vote banks of the other India in the democratic process. Globalised India too will eventually come to terms with this new reality of not taking the other India for granted. Democracy in India will then have taken a great leap forward. 


The writer is an emeritus professor at the National Institute of Public Finance & Policy, New Delhi.




                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA




Tech-enabled education is a global trend. Not only are teaching methodologies being reworked, technology is helping plug demand-supply mismatches. A north London school, for instance, has outsourced maths classes to India, courtesy a felt dearth of teachers in the subject at home. Thanks to online classes arranged by a UK firm, British students can turn to tutors in India on condition interactive sessions are booked in advance. Another example is cross-border English teaching whereby instructors in, say, Asia are getting to teach students in America. 


Via internet, access to quality education anywhere in the world becomes a possibility, scoring a goal for choice. Knowledge acquisition gets truly globalised, broadening the horizons of both students and instructors. Those forwarding protectionist or nationalist arguments against technology's revolutionising potential fail to see that. Equally, proponents of pedagogical orthodoxy don't realise that fun is the key to successful teaching. Happily, in India, educational institutions are increasingly seeing virtue in smart classrooms. Multi-media content for syllabuses creates scope for innovation. With interactive whiteboards – content stored in them can be viewed online – and facilities like video-conferencing and live broadcasting, smart classrooms can boost pupils' interest in studies like never before. 


Some say tech-dependence makes students inattentive and impairs basic skills such as speaking and writing. Surely making technology an asset rather than a liability depends on a teacher's skills, inventiveness and sense of balance. Conventional teaching by and large encourages bookishness and can dull students' sense of engagement. With access to classroom audio, video, graphics and 3D animation, children can embrace learning as a pleasure, not a chore. As time goes on, tech-savvy will increasingly be demanded of youth. So, let's catch them young. 


Student-teacher rapport is key Ajay Vaishnav 

A north London school's decision to outsource online maths classes to India is baffling. The teachers' union in Britain is justifiably concerned about the consequences of the decision. Ideally, shortage of qualified teachers in a particular institution should be addressed by recruiting more teachers, including from abroad. But, in this case, the policy of the school concerned points to a flawed assumption that technology-enabled distance learning can be a substitute for classroom teaching. 


Traditional modes of education can never become obsolete simply because technology can never replace a teacher. A classroom serves as an immediate social environment, which is central to any quality educational experience. The value of other instructional materials grows only if a teacher-student rapport exists and makes education stimulating. In a classroom, a teacher gets to know the aptitude of students and their levels of understanding and engagement. Technology can only support this face-to-face between the student and the instructor. Online teaching sessions cannot match or even compensate for such live interaction, since the teacher can't communicate with or get to know his students personally or attend to their individual needs to the same extent. 


Also, increasing use of technology in school hampers development of skills in a child. Handwriting and vocabulary suffer most. Gone are the days when students used to score extra marks for beautiful handwriting or elocution. Yet another problem arising from excessive use of technology is the sedentary lifestyle it encourages and its accompanying health risks. Lastly, with increasing incidence of cyber crime, there's a need to be vigilant about children using the internet. If such supervision is possible in school, that may not always be the case at home.







On a crisp sunny morning, the tricolour was unfurled solemnly at the club's lawn. Men in smart blazers and striped ties took the salute. The army band rolled out good old martial notes. Independence Day it was again in the country – celebrated regally in the club. The building circa mid-1800s stood grandly with its abundant Victoriana, vestiges and practices in place. Anything else, members will tell you, is just not 'cricket'. 


Such colonial club ambience was once replete with the gentlemen members' wish to be away from their female relations. Over the years, the clubs' watering holes that carried the sign 'Women and Children Not Permitted' have given ground to the winds of change. Close to a century later, such signs have become rare and the last all-male bastion is precariously alive today as the 'Men's Bar'. 


The trend is not something that the snobbish archaic remnant of the Raj, Colonel Blimp, a cartoon character created by Sir David Low, would approve of. After taking off a long time ago, the old Colonel still turns up mysteriously, unexpectedly at odd times and places – indicating that old practices are hard to shake off. 


On a recent morning, in the sylvan settings of the club taking breakfast, i noticed a 'bearer' chasing away crows from the trees. Time was not too long ago when a 'native' employee was assigned this job on a full-time basis as at a golf club Calcutta. 'Chokra-boys' with catapults scared away crows on branches of trees to prevent them from mucking up the outdoor dining experience. In addition to 'crow-boy', there was a 'dog boy'. The latter's duty was to take the memsahib and the sahib's pet for a walk, as they demolished scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausages, blackened tomatoes, toast, and pots of Darjeeling. 


Beyond the clubs, Colonel Blimp's presence haunted many a British plantation and tea estate. After a hard day's work in the tropical sun, life became easy once the solar hat was hung up. Managers, after a brisk round of tennis, returned to their spacious bungalows and had a 'native' attendant to take care of their 'personal needs'. First it was a welcome glass of chilled lemonade. As the 'brown master' sat down with the refreshing drink, Boy Friday took off the Dunlop Volley and gently eased the soggy tube socks, both imported from London. Minutes later, when the water was mixed to the right temperature, the master was led in for a relaxing hot bath. Soon after the ablution, his bath-towel was taken off and replaced by a bathrobe. Evening clothes lay spread on the bed and before master jumped into them, the attendant ensured the feet and toes were suitably dried and dusted with foot powder. This cushy manager's life, right from Munnar to the north-east, became history only in recent times. 


 Some months ago i checked into an outsized room in a sailing club in Mumbai. After a shower, i breezily stepped out into the bedroom with nothing on but an upbeat rendition of That's the Way (I Like It) on my lips and dampness behind the ears. To my horror i found, standing outside the door, a grinning toothless old uniformed gent, holding up a bath-towel. After covering myself up hurriedly and regaining some poise, i learnt that he was a 'bearer' who had let himself in with a spare room-key, and that he would organise meals, do up the bedroom and attend to other personal 'needs'. Still reeling from the shock, i politely told him that i'd ring for him when required. As i led him to the door, his face took on a puzzled look, and i noticed he kept throwing furtive glances at my wet feet. "No, no, i will dry and powder them myself," i found myself saying a tad loudly. 
    The ghost of Colonel Blimp just doesn't seem to go away from the old colonial hang-outs.








In the end — or should we say, by the time it started? — it was a gala affair without a hitch that made everyone sit up and take note. Such has been the journey up to the opening ceremony of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi that people can be forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief and considering the dazzling display at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Sunday evening as a success just by dint of the fact that nothing untoward happened. India showed its best colours and Delhi enjoyed its reputation as a great host. Kudos to those who organised the show on Sunday and made many of us proud. The fact that things can be done and done with aplomb was driven home not so much to the world at large but more to our own selves. Over the last so many months, we have swayed from illogical pride to illogical (self) derision, no small thanks to the chaos strewn all around before the show started. The truth, as in most occasions, lay in the middle: the journey to the destination was nerve-wracking and embarrassing but the destination has been reached.


The presence of spectators from all walks of life attending the opening night of a fortnight-long multi-sports event was more than just a heartening sight. It showed that with the right effort to showcase a sporting event — a non-cricketing one at that — people will be interested. The dignified address and welcome note by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pratibha Patil set the tone for India's role as a host of the Games. Both speeches also showed how we need not overstate things and use such platforms for chest-thumping. What we set on the table should speak for our capabilities.


Which brings us to the slightly embarrassing bit where there was a speech that used the event as a platform for some out-of-place India brand-building. Talking about how great an economic power we are and how 'world-class' we've become isn't what hosting an international sporting event is all about. Doordarshan commentators went one step further by embarrassingly pointing out (when an African contingent was marching past) that the country was "one of the least developed nations in the world". But such lack of tact was amicably made up by the grand display put on by hundreds of performers. And we hope that all of us gain genuine pleasure by following a sporting spectacle underway in our backyard and be proud that such an opportunity has come our way.







What a healthy democracy we have! From the real world of Parliament to the virtual world of the internet, the two main parties of the country, the Congress and the BJP, are always testing their match-fighting skills against each other. And keeping us entertained in the process so that we don't miss the action-packed sessions in Parliament. In the latest round of party vs party duels, the saffron party has accused the ruling party of virtual identity theft. The BJP has alleged that the Congress has created a domain name ( similar to theirs ( So if by mistake someone types instead of the 'correct one', you will be directed to, er, the All India Congress Committee homepage. The Congress has denied any such hijacking project on its part and has said that the BJP is trying to "politicise a technological problem". The defence sounded good until we editorial writers got into the thick of things and started reading the 'plot'. Well, after much deliberation, we still fail to understand how a tech problem can lead a surfer to the Congress page alone, and not to the page of, say, the Zoram Nationalist Party (Mizoram) or the Bourgeois Jats Platform, that could have at least explained the 'pirate' domain name's initials.


But lest we forget, there's our old friend, the 'foreign hand'. The faux BJP website's owner turns out to be one Bharat Journals and Publications based in America. However, when journalists dialled its number, it went unanswered. Is there any iota of doubt now that the 'foreign hand' is back? This time it's not inflation, floods and train accidents that it's responsible for, but creating strife between the real building blocks of this incredibly happy country: the political parties.


The BJP should not bother about such silly issues of identity theft. Instead, they should spend some sleepless nights about restoring its identity in the real world: the main national Opposition party. The rest, as they keep saying, will follow.


.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES





Driving to work each morning, I pass by some slums. In untidily laid out small makeshift homes with mud walls and roofs of plastic or tin sheets, live an assortment of waste pickers, domestic workers, street vendors and casual daily-wage workers. Electric wires are strung dangerously across the settlement and black sludge gathers in open drains. I see men and women bathing alternately under open public taps. Half-clad children with begrimed faces and laughing eyes spill on to the pavement and play. Some, with plastic bags larger than their bodies slung over their thin shoulders, pick waste. Few go to school.


These aren't unusual sights in Delhi or any Indian metropolis. But last week, I was startled to find one morning that I could no longer see the slums. Instead, I saw gaudy purple and indigo plastic posters erected on bamboo scaffoldings, with upbeat pictures of a tiger cub, mascot of the Commonwealth Games. These were strategically (and unsubtly) placed to hide from view the slums that lay behind them. I felt a deep sense of shame.


The presence of the poor — on pavements, in shanties and at traffic signals — frequently fills me with regret, anger and outrage. But never shame. There is sadness when you see children begging under plastic sheets on a monsoon afternoon, when they should have been in school. There is anger that we never plan our cities to include their poor residents. There is outrage that these are not priorities for our planners and leaders. But never shame. The shame I experienced was new when I saw the tiger mascot posters. I felt ashamed of our government because it's ashamed of its impoverished residents.


The official efforts to cleanse the city of its poor began much earlier. In the run-up to the Games, the government demolished 350 slums. Colonial anti-begging laws were deployed to send to jail-like beggar homes thousands of destitute persons. This law gives little opportunity to destitute people to defend themselves, and forces them to spend up to 10 years hiding in desolate filthy poor-house prisons. Impatient at the tardy pace of these efforts to round up the poor, the government set up eight mobile courts in which magistrates were driven to locations where people allegedly beg, and unwashed masses of people would be rounded up and immediately sentenced by a judge, who was simultaneously witness, prosecutor and adjudicator. Last winter, the government also reduced the numbers of homeless shelters, and people began to die in large numbers on the streets — until the Supreme Court intervened.


As the dates of the Games drew closer, the police rounded up the destitutes in camps in public parks, again camouflaged by festive posters, assuring that they would be housed and fed there for the duration of the Games. But they were then herded into trucks and forced on to trains to leave the city. Police also descended on slum shanties and 'advised' residents to leave the city at least until October 13, when the Games will end. Only those with 'identity cards' would be 'allowed' to remain. Panic-stricken people formed serpentine lines at police stations, vainly seeking some kind of proof of identity. Many left the city, forgoing precious wages and spending their savings on travel, desperate to avoid police custody.


When even these endeavours failed to fully rid the city of its poor, officials announced plans of planting bamboos in front of indigent settlements, to hide them from the eyes of passers-by. Fortunately administrative inefficiency blocked this and the government resorted instead to the screens that I encountered.


The city's poor are regarded to be illegal, illegitimate residents of the city. The Constitution guarantees people the right to live and work in any part of the country. Yet, recently, the Supreme Court (in the Nagla Maanchi demolition matter) was explicit that people should not come to Delhi unless they can afford to live in the city. Most of Delhi's middle class are migrants, but no one is asking them to leave. The poor are seen as burdens to the city, ignoring that they provide inexhaustible supplies of cheap labour, which build the city, cook and clean homes, recycle waste and deliver the cheapest retail. The lifestyles of the middle class would be impossible without the army of the poor who are so unwelcome in the city. Governments also claim that the poor need to be ejected in order to make the city safe. But I have never heard of a terrorist who was homeless. Where would he hide his RDX and bombs?


The government is ashamed of the poor also because they are 'dirty and unhygienic'. But living the way they do is not a choice of the poor. It is the direct outcome of the failure of governments to provide them affordable legal housing, and to extend public services like sewerage, piped water supply and drainage to poor settlements. Innumerable studies show that slums are virtually unserved by most local bodies. The shame then is not that the poor are unclean, but that governments have forced them to be so.


The city of the official imagination is one that is cleansed of its poor. We must construct another, more compassionate imagination. Of a city which includes its disadvantaged residents, with caring, respect and justice. Of a city which banishes poverty, not the poor.


Harsh Mander is Director, Centre for Equity Studies


The views expressed by the author are personal



.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES





Since the Ayodhya High Court verdict, a pressure has been building up to 'move on' and negotiate for reconciliation. This exhortation comes not only from the Sangh parivar but many, who in the past, have been trenchant critics of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and the unruly demolition of the Babri Masjid. There is very little criticism of the triumphant chest-thumping of the Hindutva spokespersons who, on every TV show, are busy declaring that since the Muslims have 'lost', they should now help in building a Ram temple at Ayodhya. When asked whether they would help in building the mosque, the worthies maintain a surly silence. But this does not deter the 'move-on' brigade.


I was shocked when Pankaj Vohra (Between Us, October 4) demanded "a bit of generosity by the Muslim groups" to not "oppose the building of the temple" because even if it sounds "legally illogical", Lord Ram does occupy an "important position in the lives of most Hindus." This reminds me of traffic brawls where the owner of the bigger vehicle bullies the owner of the smaller one into submission even when the former is at fault. The crowds plead with the two parties to 'move on' and it is usually the owner of the small vehicle who is arm-twisted into compromising. So what exactly is being said here? That Hindus have faith and Muslims don't?


Surely, even Ram bhakts will agree that Muslims have faith as do non-believers and atheists like me. (Imagine the consequences, if the courts decided to uphold my 'faith' on the issue of Ayodhya.)


Vohra's approach closely mirrors the judgement's line of reasoning which is also the logic of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. L.K. Advani always maintained that it was immaterial whether or not Ram was actually born in that spot because it was a matter of 'aastha' (belief). Today, this vague, intangible sentiment has found legal recognition, thereby reviving a movement that had collapsed under the weight of its own worthlessness. As one of the filmmakers who made the documentary Kiska Dharam Kiska Desh (Mediastorm Collective, 1990), we witnessed (and recorded) the 'hate exhibition' that had been mounted during the 'shilanyas'. In one exhibit, 'Ramlalla' sits next to a cow and the text reads: "Gau hatya au hathya karne walon ko hathya karna har Hindu ka dharmik kartavya hai ." (To kill those who kill cows is the religious duty of Hindus.) This was just one of the many exhibits. Is this the "faith" that we must respect? Are we to forget everything that we have seen?


The Ayodhya verdict, if left unchallenged, will have dangerous implications for some of the best ideas contained in the Constitution of India. The matter must reach the Supreme Court because we cannot accept 'faith' in place of hard evidence or a flawed ASI report that has been discredited by experts, and most importantly, an indirect justification of the demolition through the assertion that under the central dome lies the birthplace of Ram. The verdict is not an example of "judicial statesmanship" but an affirmation of Hindu majoritarianism. For this very reason, it concerns believers and non-believers alike. If the litigants should choose to go for reconciliation then other parties must appeal to the Supreme Court and ask for our faith in democracy and secularism to be restored.


Shohini Ghosh is Professor at the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi


The views expressed by the author are personal








This is not exactly Indian politics' cyber moment. But it may yet go down as the moment Indian politics woke up, publicly, to the notion and fact of cyber-squatting. Although the facts of this case are not in any way clear, it isn't every other day that one major national party (the main parliamentary opposition) accuses another (the mainstay of the ruling coalition) of cyber-theft or an attempt at theft of no less than its online identity. That the accuser/ "victim" is the BJP is perhaps tinged with irony. In its heyday, wasn't the BJP hailed as the most Internet-savvy political outfit, quicker than the rest to appreciate and exploit online possibilities? The Congress, the accused, still out of power, was far behind.


The facts: the BJP claims to have discovered recently a website called that was diverting users to the Congress website (, while the official BJP website remains Investigations by the party reportedly found the website "masked", therefore unrevealing of the owner's identity, and traced the domain name to one US-registered Bharat Journals and Publications. Accusing the Congress of a "petty theft like pick-pocketing", which deprived its site of many post-Ayodhya verdict hits, an infuriated BJP claims to have served a legal notice, which an equally infuriated Congress claims not to have received, counter-alleging that the whole thing's a BJP publicity stunt.


Maybe, the affair reflects the fundamentals of the play of power. Who, at a given moment, is more insecure — the holder of power, or the one without it? Does being Net-savvy have anything to do with being in power? It's quite possible though that when, and if, the truth's out, neither party would be found to have anything to do with it. The vast latitude the Internet provides , coupled with the practically non-existent Indian cyber-regime, doesn't call for much skill or talent in a cyber-crook or prankster. Identities are at everybody's mercy, and not just those of us defenceless, unorganised individuals.






The government may have taken inordinately long to actually auction 3G spectrum, but there's little to doubt the success of the auction once it took place, both in terms of transparency of conduct and revenues raised for the exchequer. Now, according to a report in The Financial Express published on Monday, the government is keen to replicate the "clock auction" model used for 3G in the auctioning of a third set of FM radio licences. What is special about the clock auction model? For one, its operation is completely electronic and involves no human element. Unsurprisingly, therefore, it is more transparent than the conventional auction method where bidders hand their bids over in sealed envelopes; the possibility of human tampering in the latter system makes it more vulnerable to misuse.


Second, the clock auction method will yield more revenue for the government than a conventional auction. In a conventional auction, the bidders put in their bids once and the highest bid wins straight away. A clock auction is a long, continuous bidding process, where the auctioneer starts with a reserve price and continues to raise it upwards until the number of bidders (who name their price without knowing what other bidders are doing) are reduced to the exact number of slots available to be given out. The clock auction for 3G spectrum and broadband and wireless access earned the government Rs 1.06 lakh crore in revenue, three times the budget estimate of Rs 35,000 crore. The massive revenues have even made a significant dent on the fiscal deficit in the first five months of the year.


The stakes in the FM auction may not be as high as in 3G, but are significant nonetheless for a government that needs to trim its deficit down further. The government is planning to allocate 806 stations across 283 towns in this latest round. Obviously, there will be different bid categories, with the largest metro cities in the top tier likely to command the highest prices. Interestingly though, the ministry of information and broadcasting, which is responsible for handing out the FM licences, had earlier turned down the clock auction method in favour of a conventional auction. But the government, in the interest of maximising its own revenues, has fortunately succeeded in persuading the ministry to reverse its earlier stance.







Lalu Prasad first became chief minister of Bihar in 1990. In and out of power since then, he has nevertheless served as the pole for the state's politics. In election after election, the trend has either been an affirmation of his politics, or a rejection of his personality and style of governance. Yet, today one reason for the ferment in its electoral space is that, for the first time in two decades, it's possible that an election will not revolve around pro- or anti- Lalu sentiment alone. Whether or not Nitish Kumar has done enough in his five years to win re-election, this much he has achieved: the singularity of Bihar politics has collapsed, its political argument has been thrown wide open.


It is far from clear, of course, that "sushasan" — good governance, Nitish Kumar's favourite word — has become the new touchstone of Bihar's politics. The old agglomerations of caste, subcaste and locality, the dense networks of patronage and privilege, are still powerful. But nobody is quite certain whether they are pivotal everywhere any more; or, if not, which places they remain central. The confusion and uncertainty that attend the release of the parties' lists — many of them released a third iteration on Monday — are signs of this. To this add another perturbation: the delimitation of constituencies has sometimes severed sitting members from their local support, and forced parties to choose between two long-established members.


One major consequence of this is that Lalu, of course, is rattled. He has already lost bargaining power at the Centre after his party's disastrous showing in the last general elections. If he, in addition, performs poorly in a second consecutive assembly election — or, worse, if it becomes evident that Bihar's politics has moved to a different mobilisation — then he will have few resources left on which to draw, little hope for the future. Hence his refusal to contest, even though he is being projected for the first time since 1997 as a chief ministerial candidate. Nor does his introduction of his son to voters, 20 years old, and "reluctant" according to the BJP, come across as a marker of confidence. But, such is the uncertainty this year, that neither Nitish nor the Congress — which is pushing to emerge as a third pole — can be completely confident that Lalu's out. As the parties finalise their candidates, Bihar's politics is fascinatingly poised.









An inter-academy, independent scientific report on GM crops was commissioned by the Indian Academy of Sciences, Indian National Academy of Engineering, Indian National Science Academy, National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, National Academy of Medical Sciences and National Academy of Sciences. The merits or demerits of the report have been sidelined. Having copied sections of the text from an article, without referencing and attributing, the report has lost credibility.


Some defenders of the report have sought an analogy with newspaper columns, where there are no footnotes, referencing or bibliography. This is facile. A research report is not an op-ed piece written for newspapers. This is not the first time something like this has happened. In 2006, we had a Mashelkar Report on patent law issues. Notice, this was a report on intellectual property and, regardless of its other conclusions, was discredited because large sections had been plagiarised from a paper written by someone else.


The IPCC's (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Himalayan blunder occurred because a paragraph was copied, without attribution, from Down to Earth. Since public memory is short, we no longer remember that the industry chapter of the Economic Survey for 1995-96 copied the text verbatim from the corresponding chapter for 1994-95, changing only the numbers, and in one instance, forgetting to do even that.


Proudhon coined the slogan "Property is theft." For physical property, few people will agree. However, historically, attitudes towards intellectual property have been different in India. The Vedas stand for knowledge and anyone who sells and commercialises the Vedas is condemned. The country must awake into a heaven of freedom "where knowledge is free." It is a separate matter that those who have written tracts against intellectual property have ensured copyright remains in their names.


There are different forms of intellectual property, with a traditional difference between industrial property (patents, trademarks, industrial designs, geographical indications) and literary and artistic works (copyright and related rights). As a general global trend, while industrial property protection has become stronger, that of copyright has become weaker. Technology is partly responsible. But it is also true that post-Uruguay Round, IPR protection is stronger in India — de jure and de facto — since enforcement has improved. We may still get a report from the Business Software Alliance stating that software piracy in India is high by global standards. However, as a trend, piracy rates have dropped.


There is greater IPR awareness, even among the judiciary and the police. There are several law firms specialising in IPR. There wouldn't have been a SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions) with an emphasis on grassroots inventions earlier.


There is also a price angle. If software and video piracy has dropped, that's largely because prices are lower. But there is a physical versus non-physical issue that goes beyond the dichotomy between industrial property and copyrights. Music is usually, though not invariably, protected by copyright. Few of us are likely to walk away with a music DVD from a retail music store without paying. But resistance to illegal free downloads is less. With two colleagues, I recently edited a health report for India. This was a priced publication, published commercially by a publisher, but wasn't priced particularly high. A respected fellow academic asked me for a free soft copy. That I refused is irrelevant. The point is that this academic wouldn't have gone to a bookstore and walked out with the report without paying. However, there is a cavalier attitude towards soft and non-physical copies and we have a special problem with academia and the education system.


Publishers have a pre-publication system of vetting manuscripts. One such manuscript turned up recently and it had large sections on IPR. Technology has made copying and pasting easier. But it has also made the detection of crime easier. A Net search revealed that this manuscript had been copied verbatim from an existing report on IPR.


Most educational institutes in developed countries have a policy on plagiarism. I am not aware of a single Indian institute that does. One can't expect such a policy if faculty members themselves are guilty of plagiarism, in lifting lecture notes and even setting examination papers. But simultaneously, there is an emphasis on getting students to work on independent research reports and one is not talking about MPhil/ PhD theses. For the most part, these are copied from elsewhere and because of faculty laziness, go undetected. When detected, they go unpunished. The US has a statutory body called the Office of Research Integrity for scientific misconduct. We don't have one and there is no independent ethics body. There is an informal Society for Scientific Values, but all its investigations have been restricted to the physical sciences. Social sciences are outside its purview.


Incentives are increasingly linked to research output and there are pressures to publish. Without publishing, one is damned. But those pressures are as much applicable to social sciences as to the physical sciences.


Discussions about developing an IPR culture in India often get bogged down in law and modernisation of patent and copyright offices. These are undoubtedly important, but we need to fix the education system. That's rarely addressed. Consider the useful reports of the National Knowledge Commission (NKC). While there are reports on innovation and these also talk about IPR, those sections are about innovation constraints for manufacturing enterprises, infrastructure and human resources in IPR offices and collaborations between industry and academia. There is nothing about the culture of academia. Without that, we won't substantially increase the number of PhDs or patent applications. Western (meaning English) education was introduced because the British East India Company needed clerks and translators.


Clerks and translators didn't need to think. Their job was to faithfully reproduce, the more faithful, the better. The educational system hasn't transcended this and evaluation and examinations still focus on faithful reproduction, not independent thinking. Add to this the perception that non-commercial violations are acceptable and needn't be culpable. This moral issue is more difficult to address than a limited legal one.


Tom Lehrer was several things — song-writer, satirist, mathematician — and produced a gem. "Plagiarise, Let no one else's work evade your eyes, Remember why the good Lord made your eyes, So don't shade your eyes, But plagiarise, plagiarise, plagiarise.... Only be sure always to call it, please, 'research'." Etymologically, "research" may have meant something else, but we have converted it to "re-search". There are several software programmes to detect plagiarism and some are non-proprietary. How many Indian educational institutes use them or even know about them?


The writer is a Delhi-based economist








Court appearances had become frequent, even routine, in recent times for Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, his son Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, and their main political adversary, former CM Amarinder Singh of the Congress. All three would regularly attend the legal proceedings that they had instituted against each other, or would simply be there seeking the courts' permission to go abroad — something they needed quite frequently.


The Badals were, however, exonerated of corruption and disproportionate assets cases by a special court last week.These cases were framed during the Amarinder Singh regime in 2003. Badal had returned the compliment after he won power in 2007, filing criminal cases against the former CM, including for corruption and financial irregularities. He also filed criminal and civil defamation cases against Amarinder — which he has now very generously offered to withdraw, inviting him to bury the hatchet and "be brothers."


Amarinder, however, was not amused by the offer of a truce. He did not react immediately, but said later that the charges against the Badals were foolproof and that the prosecution had deliberately lost the case just because the Badals were in power. He held that the investigating officer as well as his supervisory officer, both of the Indian Police Service, had taken a U-turn and gone back on their statements. He has already made his intention to take on the Badals clear, especially if his party wrests back power in the assembly elections due in a year-and-a-half's time.


Such has been the animosity and bitterness between the Badals and Amarinder that they have not lost any occasion to lash out at each other. For some observers, their perpetual showdowns are reminiscent of a Tom and Jerry cartoon. Perhaps unwittingly, they too play to the caricatures, often using graphic imagery while calling each other names.


It is obvious to everyone following the progress of the vigilance cases against the Badals that they had degenerated into a farce: even the judge used that expression. Almost all witnesses, including the complainant, had turned hostile. The public prosecutor appeared to be pleading the case of the accused, almost. Everybody simply appeared to be waiting for an inevitable acquittal. Little wonder then that Special Judge Rajinder Aggarwal ordered that perjury proceedings be initiated against two senior IPS officers, Surinderpal Singh and B.K. Uppal, for fabrication of evidence, the making of false records and presenting the challan with false allegations. "This is the rarest of the rare... not only the complainant and the material witnesses, but even the senior police officers who investigated this case have not supported the prosecution," the judge said.


The vigilance bureau, which reports directly to Badal, is unlikely to opt for an appeal against the orders of the special judge. So the questions raised in the chargesheet, about disproportionate assets of Rs 78 crore (the initial chargesheet had claimed they were over Rs 4,326 crore), will likely remain unanswered. The fate of the criminal cases instituted against Amarinder in the Amritsar Improvement Trust and Ludhiana City Centre matters is uncertain.


The acrimony between Amarinder and Parkash Singh Badal first started when they were together in the Shiromani Akali Dal. Amarinder had resigned from the Congress in the wake of Operation Bluestar. It was during this time that their struggle for supremacy led to serious bickering between the two leaders. A stage came when Badal ensured that Amarinder was not fielded in the assembly elections. Amarinder stormed out of the party, floated his own outfit for a short while, later rejoining the Congress.

An unfortunate byproduct is that development in the state has taken a backseat over the past decade. Often, projects initiated by one are cancelled by the other, or sometimes are stalled by inquiries initiated to ferret out any scandal. Almost all projects started by either side are therefore seen with cynicism. Punjab has now been reduced to one of the slowest-growing states. It would require a drastic course correction to get the state back on a proper development trajectory.









Shekhar Gupta: My guest today is F W de Klerk of South Africa, the man who shaped history and altered the course of the future, not just for South Africa but for the world in a way. With Nelson Mandela, he built peace and reconciliation in South Africa that nobody could have dreamt of, which ended apartheid and produced brilliant, multicultural, multiracial premonitions. It's wonderful. Real statesmanship is built by giving up something. In a way, you gave up power. Reality, at times, demands that a leader takes initiatives. And the reality in South Africa was that we were facing what could have become a catastrophe. And the leadership was called upon to ask ourselves what we could do to ensure that we do justice to all on the one hand, and on the other hand, that we end a violent conflict. That was the situation which I faced when I became president. That was the situation in the last five years even before I become president. On the other hand, the African National Congress (ANC) faced exactly the same question. They came to the realisation that in this conflict, they could not win. I had in my mind already decided that everybody in South Africa must have equal political rights, that all forms of discrimination must go. But we needed to replace the old apartheid regime with a regime which would uphold the values of the rule of law and of real democracy, of liberalism. And the only way to do that would be for former enemies to sit around the same table and to face each other.


Shekhar Gupta: How difficult was it?


F W de Klerk: Initially, it was not all that difficult. Difficult, I feel, is the wrong word. Actually at the end of the first intensive discussion that took place in April 1990, all of us came away and said to each other and to the media that we found out we agreed more than we disagreed and suddenly we humanised our relationship. The very first meeting that Mandela and I had was in December 1989. He was still in prison but he was very well looked after. He was brought to my office, which later became his office. We met and we didn't discuss anything of real substance that day but both of us would write afterward in our respective autobiographies that we sized each other up. I thought I could do business with this man. The same happened when the two groups came together in April 1990. So quite soon, a sort of trust developed, and this to my mind was the essential element of our successful negotiations.


Shekhar Gupta: The sacrifice on ANC's side was that of anger and resentment; the sacrifice on your side, the white population, was complete loss of power maybe for a very long time.


F W de Klerk: I will differ with you on your analysis. The sacrifice from our side was not complete loss of power but yes, we would lose the exclusive reins to power which we held on an ethnic basis. The sacrifice from their side went further than giving up their anger. They moved from nationalisation to privatisation in the process. They moved from takeover of power to a form of sharing of power. And to this day, from the white side, there are those who say I gave the country away. They call me a traitor. And from the ANC's side, there are elements who say President Mandela gave away much too much and made too many sacrifices in the process of negotiation.


Shekhar Gupta: It is fascinating how often the word "traitor" is used in South Africa in political arguments. Just as in India we say so and so is corrupt or so and so is a thief. The word, traitor, has somehow become part of the political lexical. In fact, my first insight into South Africa was a book called My Traitor's Heart by Rian Malan.


F W de Klerk: It was traitor to old causes. But the old causes were destined to end in tragedy. Therefore, all of us had to relinquish our typical old causes and adapt to the demands of the moment. For me, that is my driving force. The necessity to build the future of justice for all, for my people, the Afrikaans, not just whites. We were a special group of people. We fought the first anti-colonial freedom war more than a hundred years ago against the British Empire in South Africa.


Shekhar Gupta: Are there lessons which we can learn from South Africa's experience or your experience?


F W de Klerk: I think not only India, but many countries can learn some lessons from us. But every situation is different. I don't think we have a sort of a package deal which can be used in another country. But some of the basics would include the following: People who are enemies can't make peace unless they talk to each other. When you negotiate, you can't negotiate and select who will sit on the other side of the table. You must negotiate with people who have a real constituency, who have a majority behind them. The third, which I think is of international application, is the importance of using the window of opportunity which history offers you. It is a challenge for the leader to see the window of opportunity before it is shuts again. You only have one or two chances to go through that.


Shekhar Gupta: Some of us in India would say that window of opportunity came when General Musharraf became a bit reasonable. And then suddenly it was gone.


F W de Klerk: That is true, but new windows can open. I am not an expert in your affairs but it appears to me as if what has happened recently in Kashmir opens a window of opportunity because I heard voices saying now is the time to take stock of the reasonable concerns of the people. That creates an atmosphere to say let us go to the root cause of the problem rather than dealing with the results and the symptoms.


Shekhar Gupta: You are now a peace doctor, a reconciliation doctor.


F W de Klerk: I try to be. I started a foundation called the Global Leader Foundation. We now have now 28 former prime ministers, ministers, very senior United Nations diplomats. All have had vast experience of governance, of settlement of disputes. All have made mistakes, they have burnt their fingers. They have learnt some lessons from it. What this foundation does is to interact with governments, especially in the developing world, who can benefit from objective advice. We are non-profit, so we don't charge fees. We give discreet, confidential advice. There is no loss of face for a leader that we advise. We don't come in with two TV teams saying we are here, you need good advice.


Shekhar Gupta: So, theoretically, if India and Pakistan want your help, you would give it not like a third party interventionist.


F W de Klerk: We don't represent anybody's interest. We don't hold the mandate for anybody. For that reason, when we fund ourselves through donations, we don't have big sponsors giving us a million or half a million. We have small sponsors so that no one can accuse us of representing anybody's specific interests.


Shekhar Gupta: Going back to South Africa, I heard your speech recently, where you used the story of Cinderella—where you said the fairytale is over—meaning the World Cup is over, and Cinderella is back sitting on the aisle in the kitchen.


F W de Klerk: But I also added that there is a silver lining. That South Africa has a better image now. It has better infrastructure and hopes of further growth in tourism which is the fastest growing element in our economy. But yes, we are struggling with serious problems. The governing party has big fights within itself. Certain elements want to threaten media freedom, they want a media tribunal, they want protection of information.


Shekhar Gupta: Yes, you have a terrible press law coming up that can describe anything as national interest.


F W de Klerk: Yes, and they must step back from that. Civil society is saying this will undermine the democracy that we negotiated. They (the government) are coming up with proposals, which if implemented, would undermine the very essence of private property ownership. They are interfering with the basic flow of a free-market economy. Look at the world—all the experiments which have been undertaken, with socialism, with communism, resulted in greater poverty and failure. Capitalism, on the other hand, has also failed because in the end it did not benefit the poor. The answer lies in a balance. But essentially, you need to have a free market, so that those who make investments can make their profits, so that they will make more investments, so that they will create jobs.


Shekhar Gupta: President Zuma was in India recently. He was so effusive of the India-South Africa relationship, but looking at it from here in India, when you say India-South Africa, you usually think cricket. Is there lot more happening, should a lot more happen?


F W de Klerk: I am very happy that we have a good relationship. The fact is when we deal with India, we are dealing with one of the two most bright, upcoming, new economic world powers and when India deals with South Africa, they are dealing with the strongest country in sub-Sahara Africa. They are dealing with a country with tremendous potential. If they (India) strengthen their relationship with South Africa, they are walking through the portal to the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore, there are mutual benefits for India and South Africa to further strengthen their ties. There is good business to be done.


Shekhar Gupta: Tell me a little about President Zuma.


F W de Klerk: I never knew President Zuma closely during the negotiations. But the little I knew of him then and what I got to know of him afterward, shows to me that he is a man of the people, a very human person. He has lots of warmth in him.


Shekhar Gupta: You know, in your political career you have held almost all portfolios that matter to India right now—internal affairs, energy, mines, education. There is one issue which is very current to India right now where South Africa has more experience than anybody and that is mining. People versus corporations, local people, displacement, mining profits, windfall profits—you have dealt with all that before. Do you have some advice for us?


F W de Klerk: Well, the first thing is to have laws to assure the prevention of corruption. And we have a good

record in South Africa. You had to to comply with certain prerequisites, the guarantee of the licence was done by the bureaucracy and not by politicians.

Shekhar Gupta: Was it like an auction?


F W de Klerk: No, we had tenders. And then we have fairly sophisticated laws governing the inherent conflicts between the rights of the surface owners and the rights of the mineral owners. In order to mine, the mining company needs to compensate, in one way or another, the surface owners who have their homes etc there and give them an interest. We have examples where the mining company pays a royalty to one of our black tribes called the Baule and they get a royalty from all the products from that platinum mine. And they have a proper structure of how to use that income to the best benefit of all members of that tribe. So, that is one formula which we have applied successfully in South Africa.


Shekhar Gupta: But the key to all this is a transparent and clean allotment process.


F W de Klerk: Absolutely.


Shekhar Gupta: The fear that many people express now is that you could become, or we could become, like Russia with ten families or twenty families or twelve families or one family, controlling everything.


F W de Klerk: That must be avoided at all costs. In South Africa, the state benefits not in the sense of getting paid, but in the sense that if a mining operation becomes successful, they pay taxes and a big part of our tax base is from mining operations, but licences aren't for sale.


Shekhar Gupta: Let me come back to the question that I raised earlier in this interview. Are you an Afro-pessimist or an Afro-optimist? What do you think the future of South Africa is?


F W de Klerk: I am an Afro-optimist. I am concerned, but I am not a pessimist. I believe we have the capacity to manage the remaining challenges, and they are big challenges: in education, in health, bringing down crime dramatically. But we have the capacity to do so and I think our biggest asset in South Africa is a wonderful goodwill amongst the overwhelming majority of all the people—black, white, Indian and coloured South Africans. They all want the country to succeed. There is a will, a political will, but also a will amongst the population that we must fulfill our capacity, our possibilities, and for that reason I remain an optimist. I am very active in civil society to ensure that we don't take wrong turns.


Transcribed by Basudha Das







A Committee of vice-chancellors has recommended criteria for selecting higher educational institutions that have the potential to become navratna universities. The criteria, enumerated in a report submitted to the HRD ministry, include research output, patents, publications, sponsored projects, research grants, rankings by National Accreditation and Assessment Council, funds, admission procedures, quality of faculty, financial support to students and intake of foreign students. That India's education, including higher education, has to improve is beyond dispute. As in every other sector, the answer lies in competition and choice, driving efficiency. This is spliced with better regulation, such as through the Independent Regulatory Authority for Higher Education proposed by the National Knowledge Commission (NKC). NKC's recommendations on higher education highlighted the need for an increase in the number of universities to 1,500 and academic autonomy for selected institutes. The current report also mentions autonomy, interpreted as freedom in pay-scales, tuition fees, setting up campuses abroad and flexibility in generating resources. This is also linked to the current regulatory content, which is based on physical infrastructure (input) rather than outcome.


Having accepted the argument for autonomy, problems lie elsewhere. Vice-chancellors don't want autonomy alone. They also want more resources and additional financial support. While NKC's recommendations on competition and better regulation in higher education have gone for a six, the government has been forthcoming in setting up more institutes (including 29 new universities) at public cost. All resources have opportunity costs. It is fair to argue that India's successes in higher education (IITs/IIMs) were due to public initiatives. But, as in several other sectors, market failures of 1950s and 1960s do not mean there are market failures today. Resources spent on navratna universities should instead be spent on social sectors like school education and primary healthcare. Simultaneously, better regulation and disclosure will ensure private sector accountability improves. For instance, why should there be this hang-up about profit-making and raising resources through the equity route? There is yet another problem with fiscal incentives. These are invariably static and fail to anticipate dynamic market changes. There is a parallel with the commerce ministry's abortive identification of thrust products and thrust markets. In 1991, would anyone have identified software as a sunrise sector?







The Indian Express report on the law ministry's 'no go' to the environment ministry's no-go policy is indeed good news. While Jairam Ramesh's ministry had decided that roughly half the mining areas in the country fell under the category and were closed for mining, the law ministry has said that this is bad in law. This is not to say that these areas are now immediately open for mining, what it means is that the statutory forest advisory committee can examine proposals for diversion of forest land in these areas for mining, to see if they violate the conditions of the forest conservation act. Such a classification was always a bad idea, not just for the industry, but also from the point of view of the forests act, which gave forest advisory committees the power to approve or reject projects based on a cost-benefit analysis. It also transformed the issues into a futile debate on development versus environment. Of course, before we rush to condemn the environment ministry, keep in mind that the proposal for identifying the 'go' and 'no go' mining areas was first mooted at the chief secretaries' conference hosted by the Cabinet secretariat in early February, which wanted the ministries of environment and forests and that of coal to jointly prepare 'go' and 'no go' maps for mining and other purposes and to make them available in public domain.


The proposal, whatever its rationale, however ended up becoming a big bottleneck for the industry. And it speaks volumes for how it was formulated that, after the PM intervened, the press reported a reduction in the areas demarcated as 'no go' areas. The unprofessional approach of the ministry of mines for tapping the mineral potential of the country has been further complicated by convoluted laws that often seem to be at cross purposes. Thus, the choices opened up by the mine and minerals development act, which by its very nomenclature suggests a positive role for mining in development, are often sought to be neutralised by other statutes like the forest conservation act, which is painted to be a straight-jacketed policy that seeks to eternally sustain pristine forests with scant regard to human needs. It is time that such aberrations were smoothed out at the earliest by the active intervention of the political leadership.








Quite independent of the global economic uncertainty, we have created our own financial turbulence, which has no underpinning in any dispute on the manner of recovery. The differences, instead, have a lot to do with the personalities involved.


The systemic impact of the bad blood has created a situation where it is quite possible for smart operators to seek out regulatory arbitrage to profit from. Even more, for an economy that is growing fast and will accelerate further, turf dispute between the regulators means they will take their eyes off the road. Just imagine a car accelerating to 140 kmph with the driver distracted.


Turf disputes, in India, like any other economy, have happened before too. But at that time the nation was not accelerating at this pace and hence there was room for course correction without disruption. At present, RBI is unhappy with the finance ministry for pushing through the Bill on setting up the financial stability and development council; at a lesser level, there are issues on pay structure for its employees; Sebi is unhappy with Irda for not being on the same page on phasing out distributor commissions, as well as with the finance ministry for not appreciating the need to maintain tax breaks on equity-linked schemes and so on. In turn, both of them have made no bones about being asked to park their fees in the Consolidated Fund of India and therefore being brought firmly under the financial control of the finance ministry, for just about anything. PFRDA has so many things to be sore about, including the lack of a statutory status and more importantly, whether its distributors should get commissions or not, i.e., the Sebi or the Irda model and, in turn, with the latter as to who will be the sole arbiter of the pension market.


None of these, it is true, came about suddenly. Yet they have become acute enough for the regulators to air them publicly. Remember, too, that all of these have manifested despite the presence of the High Level Committee on Capital Markets, where the regulators meet and the finance ministry too is represented. So it is obvious the fractures go deeper and need a different solution. But since they have reached a flashpoint under the current finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, he has to take time out from handling the massive workload the UPA government has saddled him with, to ease these tensions. Postponing these to another time, another day, could prove to be costly.


Again a caveat is in order. None of these by themselves are big enough to upset the growth rate of the Indian economy. But together they vividly convey an impression of a racing chariot with horses pulling in all directions. Not the best advertisement for the financial sector of the country.


The cumulative impact of these differences are right now not apparent in the fast developments of the capital markets but are too serious to be ignored. We have already seen how the contradictory signals are impacting the mutual fund industry. Related data on the absolute flat trajectory of retail participation in the equity markets despite the largest offering of public sector scrips ever in the Indian markets may also be bearing out the impact of these developments.


Why are these differences material? Because, unlike many sectors, India's financial sector is still juvenile. Pranab Mukherjee has said that the deposit base of the banking sector is too narrow for the benefit of the other India. The investment in capital markets, too, is limited and the pension sector is yet to take off.


Over the past few years, the regulators had broadly agreed on a series of reforms meant to make the financial sector reach more people. The recent hassles upset that synergy. At a point when we are planning to begin some massive changes like mobile-based banking, merging of shares and mutual fund trading on the same exchange-based platform and making pension a viable market-linked option among others, the regulators need to talk amongst themselves and with the finance ministry without suspecting an unwritten agenda. Only then will we get to know where all of them stand on the course set out by the Raghuram Rajan committee. One suspects that like the earlier Percy Mistry committee report, this too has slipped beyond the radar of our helmsmen. Political reasons? Maybe.


Meanwhile, there is a clutch of others meant for the specific sectors like the RH Patil committee report on the bond market and the D Swaroop committee on financial literacy. The Bimal Jalan committee report, too, is yet to be finalised, but events like the Sebi-MCX spat seem to have overtaken them.


Sometimes early next year, Mukherjee will decide on a new chief for Sebi and soon after that for RBI. The Irda

chief will, of course, leave office in 2013 and the PFRDA chief has just been appointed.


But irrespective of the tenure of the respective chiefs, it is now necessary to institutionalise a sort of public

proclamation of confidence of the finance minister in the set of regulators who man these critical offices. Is it possible at this juncture for the minister to also simultaneously articulate his idea of the reforms and the men for the job?








The possibility of the Forward Contracts (Regulation) Act (FCRA) being amended raises some interesting issues in the context of financial markets in India. There is, of course, the question of what this means for the commodity market. But, at the broader level, it also provokes some introspection of the regulatory issues in the financial space.


The immediate euphoria is in the commodity markets, as the constituents have been hoping for the same for quite some time now. What this means is that if Parliament passes these amendments, then the FMC would become autonomous and could bring in the changes that are needed to galvanise a market that is quite lopsided today. The immediate thoughts that strike us are that the market can expect options and indices to be introduced soon. Also, the FMC will have more powers to control the markets, though admittedly, the FMC and market have functioned well so far without such explicit power being given to the FMC.


Once the amendment is passed, four questions may be posed. The first is whether FMC, being an independent regulator, will really help the cause? The FMC will have to gear up and hone its skills to understand the market and defend it. Being independent is one thing, to act independently is another. Suppose prices of chana or sugar were to increase sharply leading to high food inflation, can the independent FMC stand up and tell the government to lay off? Second, the issue of regulatory overlap is still not addressed. It may be recollected that the FMC had given permission to FIIs and mutual funds to trade in non-agricultural commodities several years ago. Yet their own regulators have not allowed this action. Will the FCRA amendment address this issue?


Third, while options sound good, the prospects for business per se are quite limited. Today, globally, around 10% of energy contracts, 7-8% of metals and almost nil of agriculture trading are in options. One should not overstate the case of farmers using options, considering that they have yet to trade in futures and trading in options on futures (which is what it will be) will be even more daunting for them. Fourth, commodity indices are not widely traded on exchanges unlike stock indices, which should curb the enthusiasm on the business front.


The second set of issues is institutional, which has to be addressed at some point in time. Today, there are a plethora of regulators in the financial markets: RBI, Sebi, FMC, Nabard, Sidbi, Irda, PFRDA, CEA, APMCs, etc. There are evidently no answers to the question of whether there should be more or fewer regulators. The Raghuram Rajan committee pitched for fewer while there is another school of thought that argues that specialisation is better than creating a behemoth that loses touch with reality—the same debate as with centralisation or decentralisation and empowerment.


The issue is more about the players being caught between different regulators. Today, financial products stretch across markets and regulators, which create potential conflict. Electricity is under CEA but FMC runs the derivatives market, which can involve delivery. The same holds for any physical commodity or ETF where the underlying has a different set up from the derivative product. Physical gold is not regulated but futures are under FMC but the ETF falls under Sebi. If it is a physical product, APMCs regulate, say, wheat, while the derivative is under FMC and we could have the ETF being traded on NSE under Sebi? The Ulips created their own controversies with Sebi and Irda coming to the discussion table. Banks can operate through subsidiaries in the stock market but on their own can sell mutual funds products but not deal directly as they deal with deposit money, which is RBI's domain. Forex derivatives impact currency markets but come under Sebi though technically this is okay since RBI deals with physical currency, which does not come into the picture now. Also, the institutions have different capital structures. RBI allows 40% ownership for individual entrepreneurs while Sebi has a 5% ceiling for exchanges. FMC gives time for shareholding patterns to evolve while Irda provides a longer window.


Therefore, the broader issue is that while there is merit in having more regulators with specialisation, we need to iron out these conflict zones so that markets can evolve with minimum upheavals. Currently, there is excess caution being exercised to ensure that risk from one segment does not spill over to another when the players are the same. This has led to a certain level of intransigence between regulators, which has been compounded by the differences in ministries overseeing these departments. The next stage of regulatory reform should logically be in this area before moving down to the markets per se. That will be pragmatic and useful.


The author is chief economist, CARE Ratings, These are his personal views







His aircraft may be flying high in the sky, but they don't run on beer. That's the message Kingfisher Airlines chief Vijay Mallya gave to journalists the other day. At the airlines AGM, he was asked a question about the airline's dues to oil sector companies and whether they had agreed to give him aviation fuel in spite of the airline having outstanding dues. Mallya was quick to shoot back, "You go ask the oil marketing companies, what I owe them. If there's no fuel how will the plane fly? I don't put beer in it, you know!"



Is a director-general higher than a secretary-general? It might seem irrelevant to the lay person, but is of critical importance at industry chamber Ficci where Rajiv Kumar has just been appointed director-general while Ficci's current head, Amit Mitra, is designated secretary-general. What makes things more confusing is that while Ficci's older office bearers were quite comfortable with Mitra's way of functioning, Ficci president Rajan Mittal and some others were keen to bring in someone new.



At the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) annual general meeting, where Lalit Modi was ousted from all his posts, BCCI president Shashank Manohar read out the various charges against him. Mr Modi did this, Mr Modi did that, he repeated several times. This continued until someone pointed out that there was another Mr Modi in the room, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who was there in his capacity as the head of the Gujarat Cricket Association.






Finally, CWG raised wows and plenty of them. AR Rahman's anthem worked. The iconography of Buddha and Gandhi was etched with conviction. India's diverse sights and sounds, cultures and heritage were presented on a scale that was both momentous and congenial. With clichés sternly relegated to the background! Technology cooperated, whether it was the expensive aerostat rising dot on time or the fireworks in the sky dancing in perfect tune with the drums on the ground. Our sportspeople were spectacularly attired. On so many fronts, claims that the Delhi Games would compete with the Beijing Olympics had drawn mockery. We were simply not in the same league. On Sunday evening, the CWG opening ceremony demonstrated that we were. Warmer and less contrived. We didn't get some seven-year old to lip-sync another kid's song, deeming the latter not cute enough for global screens. Sure, we didn't have everything centrally anchored to a Zhang Yimou. It was a team that delivered Sunday evening's complex choreography—Javed Akhtar, Shyam Benegal, Bharat Bala, Pt Birju Maharaj et al. And that's even more impressive.


The 60,000-strong audience was constantly attentive, from the speeches to the songs. It oohed and aahed. It cheered Pakistan. It booed Suresh Kalmadi. That our sportspeople will (hopefully) live up to the opening ceremony's grand promises should in no way allow the wrongdoers to go scot-free. All those who have made a mess of CWG delivery—from the OC to the builders of the Games Village and the collapsed footbridge—need to be brought to book.








If the Internet challenged information hierarchies with generativity — defined as the capacity of unrelated and unaccredited audiences to create and share content and code — social networking has set off the next wave of innovation. A constantly expanding web of people-to-people connections now exists, and it has profound implications for democracy. To Clay Shirky, author of the influential book Cognitive Surplus, and several other scholars, social media services such as Facebook and Twitter are making history. People are not merely connected to websites now, they have linked-up and are holding discussions. As governments recognise, it is not easy to confine information exchange to national borders. Citizens using mobile phones send out text messages, photos, and videos to friends and followers in far corners of the world on natural disasters, corrupt regimes, and anything else that interests them. In some cases, they provide the first report to newspapers and television stations, even governments, of extraordinary domestic events; lies are also quickly exposed. So convivial is the medium that despite privacy concerns, the membership of six-year-old Facebook, arguably the best-known face of social networking today, is 500 million plus. India, with some 15 million members and high mobile phone penetration, is sufficiently promising for Facebook to open an office in the country.


But can social networking websites usher in a revolution that goes beyond expressions of solidarity with friends and acquaintances? Mark Zuckerberg, the youthful and sometimes controversial head of Facebook, spoke some time ago about his aim to start a revolution for advertisers, as people publicise their choices and provide referrals to friends. More significant is the contribution of his forum to different causes. Activists have used it admirably to pursue issues as wide-ranging as cultural policing by Hindutva groups, the arrest of civil rights activist Binayak Sen, help for Darfur refugees, and cancer awareness. Twitter is often credited with doing even better, by quickly sending out crisp 140-character messages around the globe. All this is exciting, but a caveat is in order. Like revolutionary technologies before them, such as the telephone, radio, and television, social media can achieve their full potential only when everyone has easy access to them. Open standards can help build several inter-connected platforms and strengthen social media. It must, however, be underscored that this evolution will depend heavily on the attitude of governments and the telecom networks. They must not erect censorship barriers or violate the principle of net neutrality, which ensures equality of access to all users.







President Hugo Chávez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has, as expected, held its majority in the 165-seat National Assembly, winning 96 seats along with its allies. The opposition United Movement for Democracy (MUD) alliance, which boycotted the 2005 general election and was led this time by Ramón Guillermo Aveledo, put up a decent fight, taking 64 seats. The single-chamber Assembly, which serves a five-year term, is elected by a combination of the proportional closed party list system, a single-member simple majority system, and a plurality multi-member system. The Assembly also has three seats reserved for indigenous peoples, and nominations for these are open to all parties. The main political outcome of the election is that the ruling party has lost its earlier two-thirds majority. This means the President can no longer appoint judges and get major legislation passed without effective opposition.


The 66 per cent voter turnout reflected the intense interest this election aroused in the region and beyond. Mr. Chávez effectively turned the campaign into a referendum on himself, with blanket coverage on state radio and television and compulsory live broadcasts of his speeches on the private stations. The opposition, for its part, focussed on issues such as rotting food, high crime rates, the quality of public services, and the effects of the recession on the overall economy. It got substantial propaganda support from influential sections of the international media, which have all but replaced Cuba's Fidel Castro with Mr. Chávez as their pet Latin American hate-figure. Secondly, between 2003 and 2008, the United States Agency for International Development increased the number of Venezuelan programmes it funds from 66 to 623, with a total input of $20 million; it has been publicly accused of aiming to remove Mr. Chávez. Thirdly, this year alone has seen $40-50 million channelled to anti-Chávez groups, particularly opposition parties. On the other side, poorer Venezuelans have strongly backed Mr. Chávez, often stating in public opinion polls that he has ended their political exclusion. Like most Latin American voters, they know what it is to be victims of brutal U.S.-backed dictatorships during the Cold War and of the economic destruction visited upon them by international financial institutions in the 1990s. With unemployment down from 15 per cent in 1999 to 8 per cent today, they can also point to substantial improvement in their economic condition. Mr. Chávez and the PSUV face tough challenges but Venezuelan voters have given them a strongly renewed mandate.










On September 12, 58 per cent of the electorate that went to the polls in Turkey voted in favour of a constitutional reform package put forth by the governing Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi, AKP). The symbolism was lost to none: the referendum took place on the 30th anniversary of Turkey's last direct military intervention. Its interpretations, though, varied wildly. The government, along with the United States and the European Union, hailed the result as a step towards greater democracy and a blow to the country's junta-made 1982 Constitution. The Opposition, which had framed the amendments as a sugar-coated attempt by the Islamist-rooted AKP to wrest control of the country's fiercely secular judiciary, bemoaned that the outcome would take Turkey closer to a one-party dictatorship.


Domestic developments in Turkey have been attracting a great deal of attention from the outside world in recent years — testament to the country's growing international stature. Turks are not used to being under the spotlight so much, at least not for the right reasons: as recently as a decade ago, the country mostly made the news for its political and economic crises, military interventions, tensions with its neighbours and gross human rights abuses.


Today's headlines tell a different story. A member of the G20, Turkey's economy grew fastest next to China's in the first half of 2010; a stark contrast to the gloomy picture across the European Union, which has long been keeping Turkey at the door. Ankara is also strengthening its ties with most of its neighbours, while mediating conflicts further afield. There is an increasing talk of a Turkish 'soft power', defined by a flurry of cultural, economic and diplomatic hyperactivity in all directions.


Yet despite the positive press, those who look at Turkey from the outside often see a country divided along ideological, political and ethnic fault lines: secularists vs. Islamists, liberals vs. nationalists, Turks vs. Kurds, etc. For many observers, the referendum process was a further confirmation of Turkey's divisions. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan brazenly labelled all those who opposed the reform package as "coup supporters," while many in the secular Opposition blamed the outcome on the "ignorant masses" that were easily manipulated.


Contrasting narratives are increasingly being adopted by outside observers as well. There is a heated debate, particularly within western foreign policy circles, as to what to make of a changing Turkey: is Ankara's increasingly assertive and independent foreign policy merely a reflection of its growing economic and political clout in the wider region; or is it a sign that Turkey is abandoning the West for a coalition of eastern or Islamic allies, such as Iran and Syria, under the AKP government?


Turkey's curse


The problem with most analyses of Turkey, both domestic and foreign, is that they attempt to explain a complex socio-political transformation on the basis of caricaturised dichotomies. Perhaps it is the inevitable curse of being labelled "the bridge between the East and the West": its challenges are invariably reduced to an existential rift between two neatly separated civilisational camps. In the end, "the bridge" rarely holds and the country is presented with a stark choice: it can either be eastern or western; Muslim or democratic; backward or modern.


The reality, however, is that many diverse and seemingly contradictory processes are taking place simultaneously in today's Turkey. The chief concern of the Kemalist old guard — that is, the military-bureaucratic establishment — and the secular urban middle class has long been that Prime Minister Erdogan and his party are working to replace Kemal Ataturk's secular regime with an overtly Islamic one. But the AKP is as much a product of Turkey's transformation as it is the cause. There is no denying that after decades of exclusion from public life, Islam is resurgent in Turkey. A visitor who last passed through the provinces of Anatolia 20 years ago will probably find fewer shops selling alcohol and more women wearing the Islamic headscarf.


Yet the same visitor may also notice that there are more people, including women, on the streets and the ghost towns of yester-decade have become vibrant business and investment hubs in their own right. In fact, it is partly on the back of a rising Anatolian middle class, which is at once pious and entrepreneurial, that Turkey's recent economic (and the AKP's political) achievements have come about. This is not an easy transition: the collision of secular and pious lifestyles that were once socially and geographically separated often creates tensions. A recent assault by a local mob on several newly established art galleries in Tophane, a poor immigrant neighbourhood of Istanbul that is being rapidly gentrified, is a case in point.


For many secular Turks, these are dreadful signs of Turkey's creeping 'Iranisation.' But tales of mutual suspicion and intolerance represent only part of the picture. The other part is about a country where a long disenfranchised majority is being gradually integrated into the socio-political system largely through democratic means and economic growth and, in the process, having to reconcile its traditional values with its newfound affluent tastes and liberal practices. Had the Shah achieved a similar feat, Iran may have never needed a revolution.


The many faces of Erdogan's Turkey


Turkey is a country of striking contrasts. It has more Facebook users than most western countries, yet YouTube remains banned by a court decision for broadcasting videos that insult Ataturk. Istanbul, the European capital of culture for 2010, has the highest number of mosques of any city, a vibrant art scene, a bustling nightlife, as well as sprawling shantytowns that are lately being replaced by government-funded housing blocks. It has a growing civil society that bravely confronts national taboos, as well as nationalist movements that fight to keep them intact.


Mr. Erdogan's AKP has managed to dominate Turkey's political life for the past eight years, because it embodies most of its contrasts. It is the only party that has significant electoral presence in the country's industrial west, conservative heartlands, and conflict-torn Kurdish southeast, as well as across most social and political divides. In 2007, when the party won nearly one of every two votes in a general election, its supporters included liberals, social democrats, and businesspeople, Islamists, nationalists as well as a significant number of Kurds.


Its democratising reforms have significantly trimmed the military's political tentacles, and won Turkey the EU candidate status in 2005. Its economic and fiscal policies attracted record levels of foreign investment, and helped avert the worst effects of the latest financial crisis. Its leaders, on the other hand, have become increasingly intolerant of dissent, taking cartoonists to court and putting pressure on critical journalists and newspapers. They have also been criticised for handing out lucrative business contracts to firms close to the party, and making appointments to local government positions, universities and the police on the basis of personal connections or association with various religious fraternities.


In 2009, the AKP government launched bold initiatives to normalise ties with Armenia, with which Turkey has no diplomatic ties, and find a democratic end to the bloody, three-decade-old Kurdish insurgency. Faced with a nationalist backlash, however, it soon reverted to populist rhetoric on both fronts. Finally, the AKP has gone further than any civilian authority to expose and cleanse the Turkish state of its ultra-nationalist, putschist and criminal elements; that is, the so-called "deep state". It now risks squandering that possibility by turning the court case, known as 'Ergenekon,' into a vendetta against political opponents.


It is no surprise, then, that the newly approved constitutional reform package also represents a mixed bag. The amendments remove legal obstacles preventing the trial of the junta that carried out the 1980 coup, which is responsible for the death and torture of thousands of people, particularly in the Kurdish provinces, but not the anti-democratic institutions it put in place. They break the monopoly of the Kemalist elite over the judiciary, which has been deeply ideological and shut down numerous political parties, but allow the executive to pack the courts with its own candidates.


<>Perhaps most importantly, the referendum process revealed a widespread demand for a brand new democratic Constitution. Political actors should respond to that demand without delay. The government should also catch what could be the last train towards a peaceful settlement of the Kurdish issue within the framework of a unified Turkey, by maintaining dialogue, both in public and in private, with the Kurdish nationalists.


Turkey's multi-faceted transformation is yet to be complete: the country is facing a historic moment to create its own brand of modernity — one that is vibrant, democratic and multicultural. This is by no means a foregone conclusion, however, and the pitfalls ahead are as daunting as the opportunities are enticing.


(Karabekir Akkoyunlu is a PhD candidate at the London School of Economics. He is the author of Military Reform and Democratisation: Turkish and Indonesian Experiences at the Turn of the Millennium.)









The absence of any condemnation of the vandalism of the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 is a conspicuous aspect of the Ayodhya verdict of the Allahabad High Court.


The Supreme Court in its judgment of 1994 said of the demolition: "Within a short time, the entire structure was demolished and razed to the ground. Indeed, it was an act of 'national shame.' What was demolished was not merely an ancient structure, but the faith of the minorities in the sense of justice and fairplay of the majority. It shook their faith in the rule of law and constitutional processes. A 500-year-old structure which was defenceless and whose safety was a sacred trust in the hands of the State government was demolished."


The White Paper issued by the government on the demolition said: "The demolition of the Ram Janma Bhoomi-Babri Masjid structure at Ayodhya on 6.12.1992 was a most reprehensible act. The perpetrators of this deed struck not only against a place of worship, but also at the principles of secularism, democracy and the rule of law enshrined in our Constitution. In a move as sudden as it was shameful, a few thousand people managed to outrage the sentiments of millions of Indians of all communities who have reacted to this incident with anguish and dismay."


So great was the sense of outrage that the Prime Minister and the Central Government said on December 7, 1992 and December 27, 1992 that the mosque would be re-built.


The Ayodhya judgments of the Allahabad High Court make no note of the vandalism of December 6, 1992. On the other hand, they take the demolition as a fait accompli, as if the disputed 2.77-acre site was vacant land. After holding that the area beneath the central dome of the erstwhile Masjid must be allotted to Hindus because of their faith that Lord Ram's place of birth was there, and the areas covered by the Ram Chabutara and Sita Rasoi should be allotted to the Nirmohi Akhara, the court has said that the remaining area of the disputed site should be divided, two-thirds to the two Hindu plaintiffs and one-third to the Muslim plaintiff by metes and bounds. These judgments, therefore, legalise and legitimise the 1992 demolition, as the decree of the court proceeds on the basis that there is no Masjid on the disputed site today.


It is an elementary rule of justice in courts that when a party to a litigation takes the law into its own hands and alters the existing state of affairs to its advantage, (as the demolition in 1992 did in favour of the Hindu plaintiffs), the court would first order the restitution of the pre-existing state of affairs.


If that is not possible, as in this present case, the court would not allow an act of lawlessness to benefit the party that indulged in it. This elementary rule of justice, the Allahabad High Court judgment ignores.


The test of the soundness of the court's verdict is this: assuming the correctness of the High Court's findings that the area beneath the central dome of the mosque was the birthplace of Lord Ram or that the Masjid was built over the ruins of a temple in 1528, if the Masjid had not been demolished and had remained on the site, would the court have ordered a division and partitioning of the disputed site in the manner it has directed? This could have been done only by the Masjid of 500 years being brought down to create a vacant site — which clearly would have been an impossible direction.


If that is not the case, can the court take advantage of the illegal act of demolition of the Masjid and order a division of the disputed site in the manner it has done?


The majority verdict of the High Court is well intentioned, meant to be a measure of compromise and national reconciliation. If it is accepted in that spirit by the Muslim community, it will resolve a burning communal problem of our nation. This is the consummation to be wished for. If this does not happen and the court's verdict has to be accepted, it will leave simmering resentment in the Muslim community, for it will see that as the court's condonation and legitimisation of a place of worship having been vandalised.


( The writer is a Senior Advocate and a former Solicitor-General of India.)









"India is Shining" in many ways, but the major hiccups in the run up to the Commonwealth Games (CWG), which opened on October 3 in New Delhi, highlight India's serious problems. Despite the colourful display of India's arts and culture at the grand opening ceremony, the frantic last minute interventions —including enlisting the Army (who did a remarkable job) to help with the final preparations — reveal the gross inefficiencies of India's public sector management systems. More to the point, it has exposed globally the weak public sector, paralysed by unacceptable corruption practices.


While India's impressive economic growth rate (recent average eight per cent) regularly makes international headlines, this single indicator, unfortunately, masks India's many shortcomings — a basic lack of infrastructure, power, irrigation and transport that slows the pace of India's economic and human development. In fact, according to the recently published World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report, India has slipped from 49th to the 51st place on a list of 139 countries, mainly because of its poor performance in health, education and infrastructure.


India's image is at stake


The impressive opening ceremony showcased India's many talents and its prowess as an emerging global player. Unfortunately, the rough run-up to the CWG was, and still is a major embarrassment for India and tarnishes its image as it competes with other emerging economies such as China, South Africa and Brazil on the global stage. International shame over the many calamities that made world news before the Games opened spurred national leaders to act precipitously, with no check on costs. If only the same leaders were equally shamed by India's slow progress toward achieving its targets on the United Nations (U.N.) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Earlier this month in New York, a massive U.N. gathering brought global attention to the progress many countries are making (or not) towards achieving key social and economic development targets by 2015. These include measures of poverty and hunger reduction, as well as those that show improvements in child and maternal survival. India has made some progress, but not at a pace that will allow it to meet its specific targets by 2015.


Consider India's progress since 1990 on a few critical MDGs that drive social and economic development. The under-five child mortality rate in 2008 was 69 per 1,000 live births. True, this is half the rate in 1990, but as a recent Save the Children Report reveals, India's current rate of reduction in under-five mortality is just 40 per cent of what is needed to achieve this MDG by 2015. The report also shows that poor Indian children are three times more likely to die before the age of five than those from higher income groups, raising serious questions about equitable access to health services in India.


Another recent report from World Health Organisation (WHO) and the U.N. shows that approximately 60,000 Indian women die every year from pregnancy and childbirth related causes, even though the risk of dying in childbirth is falling for urban women relative to their rural counterparts.


The Government of India (GOI) is battling over the "correct" number of maternal deaths in India with the U.N. and WHO given recent progress on this MDG, but we know for a fact that less than 50 per cent of Indian women deliver in the presence of a skilled health professional, significantly decreasing their chances of survival if they begin to haemorrhage, face obstructed labour or contract an infection during childbirth. Should not this slow progress be a matter of national shame that requires urgent action for India to earn its place on the global stage?


Lasting national prestige


Lasting national prestige comes not from international sports events, even if they are orchestrated spectacularly well, but from investing in one's own country and people. Estimates suggest that India will spend three billion to ten billion dollars on the Games. In stark contrast, India's health budget for 2010-2011 was about four billion dollars, or just about one per cent of its total GDP. Similar levels of attention and resources that have been poured into the Commonwealth Games could solve some of India's fixable but persistent problems. The government needs to not only find ways to generate power for industrial growth, but also to use this power to build and operate classrooms and protect supply chains so that children can read and write, and receive life-saving immunisations. Similarly, it should build roads not only to transport commercial goods, but also to expand public infrastructure that responds to human needs — transporting women to hospitals during childbirth to prevent maternal and child deaths, and distributing food to prevent wide-spread hunger.


Some signs of progress are emerging, but urgent action from India to meet its MDG targets by 2015 is in order. India's leaders can apply lessons learnt from the CWG experience, and hopefully even generate funds from the ongoing use of this massively expensive sports complex, to accelerate India's development performance. This way the Army would not have to be called in to fix India's image in the final run-up to the global MDG stage in 2015.


( Nandini Oomman is Senior Associate at the Center for Global Development, Washington, D.C.)








Over the past nine years, as the U.S. Army has cycled hundreds of thousands of soldiers through combat duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, it has also court-martialled 34 on murder or manslaughter charges in the killings of civilians in those conflict zones. Twenty-two were convicted, and 12 acquitted.


Some cases gained a measure of notoriety, including a rape and multiple killing in Iraq in 2006 that resulted in lengthy sentences for several soldiers. The Marine Corps, too, has dealt with high-profile cases, like the killing by Marines in 2005 of 24 Iraqis in Haditha — though prosecution efforts in that case largely collapsed.


But a case being heard before a military court at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Seattle could surpass all that have come before in the two wars: accusations that a drug-addled Army unit formed a secret self-described "kill team" that repeatedly killed Afghan civilians for sport, posing for pictures with victims and taking body parts as trophies.


The particularly chilling and gruesome details of the accusations make the case different in many ways from the broader universe of publicly known civilian killings in Iraq and Afghanistan.


"This is a magnitude escalation above anything that has ever happened before" in Afghanistan or Iraq, said Thomas J. Romig, a retired Major General who oversaw the Army's court-martial system as Judge Advocate-General from 2001 to 2005.


The majority of civilian-killing cases that have arisen until now have been connected to combat in some way: soldiers accused of using excessive force or firing indiscriminately when responding to an attack, or who killed prisoners shortly after a bombing or a firefight, when emotions were still raging.


It can be difficult to win a conviction, specialists in military law said, when defendants can make a plausible claim that they believed, in the confusion of the "fog of war", that their lives were in danger and they needed to defend themselves. "You often see cases of kids who just make dumb decisions," said Gary Solis, who teaches the laws of war at Georgetown University. "But killings in the heat of the moment, they don't usually try those guys. The guys you try are the ones who have an opportunity to consider what they are doing."


Last year, for example, five Army soldiers were convicted or pleaded guilty to charges related to the killings of four blindfolded and handcuffed detainees. The victims were shot in the back of the head and dumped into a Baghdad canal in 2007. In that case, the soldiers had captured the prisoners shortly after somebody had shot at the soldiers. They were frustrated because they believed their prisoners were insurgents who would be released because the evidence against them was deemed to be too weak.


The accusations in the most recent case are even further removed from the high emotions of combat. In a videotaped interrogation that was leaked to the news media, one defendant said that they would kill civilians without provocation after making it seem as if they were under attack. — New York Times News Service







An Islamic charity that sponsored the Gaza-bound aid flotilla that Israeli commandos boarded about four months ago says activists from several countries in Asia plan to send an aid convoy to Gaza in an effort to break Israel's naval blockade of the region.


The Turkish charity IHH said on Monday that 500 activists from a dozen countries will take part in the new convoy that hopes to reach Gaza by December 27.


It says the activists will set off from India by land on December 2, cross Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Syria, then try to reach Gaza by sea. IHH will organise the Turkish leg of the trip.


The group sponsored the Gaza-bound aid flotilla that was intercepted by Israeli commandos May 31. Eight Turkish activists and a Turkish-American died in the raid, which sparked international condemnation. — AP








Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee's concerns on inflation, particularly regarding food items, will be shared by much of this country. Ordinary citizens, particularly the millions in the unorganised sector, have been reeling under the high prices they have to pay for items of daily consumption. Moong, a vital source of protein for the poor, is still in the vicinity of `100 per kg, not to mention other pulses and dals. Mr Mukherjee has said overall inflationary pressures have decreased, and that one must now see the rate of growth of the increase. That is fair as prices are bound to rise when supply does not keep up with demand, but it is important to curb the runaway growth in prices. The agriculture minister's role in this is critical: for unless food production can be increased on a war footing, the situation is not likely to come under control. Unfortunately, though, his role has been found wanting, leaving a lot of unease and frustration in the minds of the people, who feel very little is being done about this matter given the magnitude of the problem.?Mr Sharad Pawar has an agricultural background and he has done much to change the face of Baramati in Maharashtra's Pune district, and also in the horticultural sector across the state, and it was expected he would have worked tirelessly to bring about a revolution in the nation's food production. The government knows well in advance when the country's foodgrain production is going to be plentiful, leading to excess procurement, so it should have created matching storage capacity. In fact, though, this was not done, and thus thousands of tonnes of foodgrain, worth around `50,000 crore, were left to rot in the open, with the government also preferring to let it rot rather than distributing it free of cost to the poor. We live in strange times indeed!

In an interview published in this newspaper on Monday, Mr Mukherjee quite rightly spoke of the need to increase production in view of the proposed National Food Security Bill. One only hopes that he can goad the agriculture ministry into action, otherwise the entire food security matter will be a failure even before the bill becomes law. If the production falls short of the country's requirements, the government will once again have to go in for food imports, draining our resources and also inviting imported inflation. This in turn would increase the government's subsidy burden. It would be far easier and much more practical to insist that the agriculture ministry take responsibility for providing the groundwork for the success of the Food Security Bill. As Mr Mukherjee put it, "the very basic foundation of food security is production." Even good rains would be meaningless unless sowing takes place and there is a plan to increase food production. Since last year we have seen the Planning Commission deputy chairman and others say that food prices would fall when the rabi crop comes in; subsequently this goalpost was shifted to "if the rains are good", and now till the kharif crop, and so on...

That apart, India's economy seems in fine form if one does not take into account the disturbed areas in 15 states that are under the control of the Maoists/Naxalites. India is still the flavour of the season for foreign investment as it remains one of fastest-growing large economies, along with China, and investments in Indian stock markets offer good returns. There is an inherent danger of too much overseas funds flooding the markets through foreign institutional investors (FIIs), but as the finance minister noted, the Reserve Bank of India is well equipped to handle any eventuality.








First there was an all-party delegation and now a group of interlocutors under the chairmanship of an "eminent person" will begin the process of sustained dialogue with political parties and groups in Kashmir — all for the Valley. It is very clear that the first round has gone to the Hurriyat, the trendsetter for the jihadi-azadi groups in the Valley. But still it is by no means the sole representatives of all sections of the people. Kashmiri as well as non-Kashmiri-speaking communities like Gujjars and Bakarwals, as also the Shia community that participated in elections, do not subscribe either to the Hurriyat or to Pakistan Army-sponsored agenda. The interlocutor groups will have fair chances of a receptive audience but it will nevertheless be a demanding task and definitely uphill in places. Also, demand for international interlocutors might be raised by the Hurriyat and its adherents out of sheer cussedness if nothing else.

The Cabinet follow-up to the visit of the all-party delegation was undoubtedly swift and prescriptive. Their eight-point agenda advises measures to restore a degree of normalcy in civic life in the Valley and the preliminary response from the people has been encouraging, though optimism would be premature at this stage. Negotiations and talks — whether direct or through interlocutors — must be continued in good faith with all those who wish to sit across the discussion table and progress to the extent possible. But those in government surely realise that no amount of "Red Cross parcels" to the separatist elements in the Valley are likely to induce a change of heart at the present juncture because pro-Pakistan sentiments are too deeply implanted amongst them and aspirations to win their hearts and minds are utter delusion. The ground realities of the existing situation must include renewed focus on recalibration of strategies for long-term security of the Valley.
Against the background of a high-level agenda for normalising relations with Pakistan regardless of provocations by the latter, the basic factor driving the unrest in Kashmir remains the Pakistan Army's consistent long-term strategy of "death by a thousand cuts" using radicalised local surrogates like the Hurriyat. There should be no doubt that Jammu and Kashmir, specifically the Valley, continues to be the central front of this war. It is, therefore, essential that in its effort to "reach out" to separatists, India retains a sense of balance and does not get swept away by unrealistic sentimentality.

However, there is encouraging news coming out of the Kashmir Valley too. The Jammu and Kashmir Police — a local force with a large representation from the Valley — is bearing up admirably under the stress of public confrontations with street mobs who are their own kinfolk. Like all forces in similar circumstances, the police is under undoubted psychological stress, but there have been few if any cases reported so far of refusals or dereliction of duty. It is important to give them due credit and recognition. The Central Reserve Police Force is the other main agency functioning under orders of the local police. They are doing a workmanlike job as everywhere but the rank and file requires firmer handling by their own commanders who, in turn, require professional training in crowd psychology and management.

Home minister P. Chidambaram's agenda constitutes a security directive conveyed in advisory terms and has to be fully complied with, in terms of reduction of the profile and density of security forces in Srinagar, as also selection of areas from where the Disturbed Areas Act and its accompanying Armed Forces Special Powers Act would be removed (though thankfully not diluted). This is to be worked out by the Unified Headquarters, as is proper, but for the record, experiences of similar expedients in Manipur have been unsatisfactory.
From Delhi, it was the Valley region of Jammu and Kashmir which was initially perceived to be burning, but as the all-party delegation discovered on its rather perfunctory visit to Jammu, that region of the state was surely fuming too at the exclusive focus of the Indian political establishment on an area which stridently rejects any Indian identity, while Jammu, which holds steadfastly to its Indian parentage seems fated to remain a stepchild.
Some members of the delegation, at the instance of the Left parties, took an independent initiative to personally visit and interact with the leaders of the Hurriyat under house arrest. It was a decision others publicly disassociated from. Their visit to the Hurriyat leaders was an attempt at honourable reconciliation, a gesture undoubtedly required at a time of bitter confrontation but their needlessly obsequious and deference in full glare of the national media deeply shamed the watching nation and reminded many of 1993 when the then adviser to the governor stood with his head similarly bowed before the militants occupying the Hazratbal Mosque before abjectly succumbing to their diktats. India's approach to the Kashmir Valley has been endlessly conciliatory and there is now a palpable sense of unease and anxiety in the rest of the country. How much more is the government prepared to concede to "win the unwinnable" in terms of hearts and minds in the Valley and unilaterally pursue peace with Pakistan driven by its Army?

The eight-point agenda announced by the home minister at his press conference on September 25 was described as a first step towards a "new beginning". All in the Valley must understand that this has to be within the parameters of the Indian Constitution, both with the rest of the country as also the other regions within the state, which want no part of a "jihaadi-azadi". Let the reverse flow begin — it is now high time for the Valley to reach out to the rest of India. It can be done.

The tailpiece concerns a photograph published in a prominent English daily covering the visit of the all-party delegation, showing two leading lights of the two separate Communist parties standing devoutly at the Hazratbal Mosque during the course of the visit, with heads covered and hands folded in supplication to the resident Almighty. Both these professedly hardcore, hardline Marxist gentlemen attend Parliament from West Bengal. Question: Can the public of their state expect to see them similarly at the Kalighat Temple as well?

Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former member of Parliament








Though the people of the country in general have welcomed the Allahabad high court judgment in the Ayodhya case, some legal experts are raising questions on its legality, describing it a sort of formulation devised by a "panchayat" with the court not deciding the case strictly within the four corners of the law. Former Additional Advocate-General of India and senior Supreme Court advocate K.N. Bhat, who was the counsel for "Bhagwan Shri Ram Virajman (the deity)" and "Asthan Ram Janmabhoomi" whose suit was allowed, in an interaction with S.S. Negi has tried to put the legal aspects in the right perspective. Mr Bhat, who had been ASG between 1996-1998, had been involved with the case for long and has a deep knowledge of every issue related to it. Now he sees a chance of Hindu factions fighting over the Ram Temple issue rat her than a fight bet ween Hindus and Muslims.


Q. What is the real legal implications of the verdict in Ayodhya case, has it been decided strictly as per the law, or has the court gone beyond it?

A. The suits have been decided generally in accordance with law e.g. Suit No. 3 (Nirmohi Akhara) and Suit No. 4 (Sunni Waqf Board) have been dismissed on the ground of limitation i.e. they were filed beyond the period prescribed by law. Nirmohi's suit was dismissed on the additional ground of not impleading the necessary party viz., the deity.


The decision on Janmasthan being a deity and that the particular area below the central dome (when it existed) being "by tradition, belief and faith" the birthplace of Lord Ram are based on the sound principles of law and good precedents in the form of decisions by the Privy Council, the Supreme Court of India and many authoritative texts on religion.
However, in the matter of dividing the property in the manner it did, the court has gone beyond strict legal principles of the pleadings and prayer because no one pleaded so, nor prayed for such a relief.


Q. Some legal experts have described the verdict as a sort of formulation devised by a "panchayat" as the suits are not decided within the four corners of the law. Do you agree with this?
A. The decision to divide the disputed site into three portions was rightly criticised as a sort of panchayat. This criticism is subject to correction after reading the full text of the judgment that would have justified the decision for reasons stated. The question naturally arises, how can the Sunni Board and Nirmohi Akhara get any share of the land after their suits have been dismissed — a defendant can get no relief in a suit except in a suit for partition, dissolution of a firm or the like. I must add that many a time judgments that may not be technically sound serve a great public good — this decision was primarily responsible for getting all sections equally happy or unhappy and hence peace prevails. A Persian proverb says, "All round injustice is some times full justice".


Q. Is it not a "conscious" attempt by the judges to lay the foundation for mediation through judicial intervention when the case goes to the Supreme Court after their efforts to bring about the mediation had failed?
A. Yes, it appears to be a conscious attempt to facilitate settlement. While I was arguing the case, Justice Khan had specifically asked me whether there was a possibility of division of the land in dispute. Every one, including me, answered in the negative.


Q. Do you think that the high court has failed to enforce the constitutional mandate of adjudicating the case

strictly as per the law as was generally expected?
A. No. The high court has discharged its mandate fully. The direction to divide the land into three portions may appear to be a panchayat, but, in reality, the plaintiffs whose suits have been dismissed cannot get a decree for a share in the property. Accordingly, it is a theoretical declaration of right.


Q. Why did the mediation attempts by the high court fail?
A. No one in fact had the mandate of the people behind (the parties) to settle the dispute. It is whispered that some sections would lose a perpetual source of income if the dispute ends.


Q. Do you expect the Supreme Court to uphold the verdict after it has been generally hailed by people from both communities, who are much relieved that it, in a way, has had a soothing effect on the tension caused due to the Mandir-Masjid controversy?

A. At some stage or the other, the Supreme Court would certainly try to settle the matter amicably — maybe when one party or the other moves the apex court for an interim direction, like permission to build a temple during the pendency of the appeal.


Q. Do you think the verdict has laid the foundation for the closure of the centuries-old dispute and relieving the country of a great social and communal tension?

A. The verdict has put an end to one chapter. When the next one will end is a matter of speculation.


Q. Will an attempt to build the Ram Temple there revive communal tension even if the Supreme Court ratifies the high court verdict?

A. I don't expect the revival of communal tension on account of building of the temple. The competition will be between the two Hindu factions, rather than Hindus and Muslims.


Q. Do you see any possibility of the mosque being built close by if the trifurcation formula is finally upheld by the Supreme Court?

A. The right to build a mosque will depend upon the confirmation of the title — whether the Sunni Board has, in fact, acquired a right. The Supreme Court can surely set the matter at rest.


Q. What could be the possible political fallout of the verdict? If implemented in its present form, do you think it will help forge greater bonding between Hindus and Muslims?

A. The answer will depend upon the manner of implementation. As I said, the two Hindu factions, unless they unite, are likely to be fighting with one and another rather than the Muslims and Hindus.








There's no doubt about it, this is incredible India all right. Where else in the world would you get judges of a high court treating a deity as litigant in a legal case? And then, because the said deity, otherwise referred to as Ram Lalla in the judgment, is to be treated as a minor (was this the only reason He did not appear in court himself?) where else would you find the court awarding land rights to his "next friend", a contemporary human and a trust that human is associated with?

For residents of Delhi, there have been other recent signs of our Indian incredibleness. The Commonwealth Games have thrown up different aspects of this almost continuously in the past few months. Of course, it could be argued that by now ordinary Indians should be inured to the spectacles of corruption and incompetence to which we have been exposed around this event. Even so, our rulers retain the capacity to surprise us.
Possibly the most startling relatively new thing that has come to attention in Delhi is the emergence of a generalised "purdah" around those parts of the city that have been deemed to be unsightly for visitors' eyes, and therefore to be rendered invisible.

What exactly am I talking about? In the week prior to the opening ceremony of the by-then dreaded Commonwealth Games, new temporary screens pasted with large posters suddenly sprang up all over different roads in Delhi. The posters blazoned the CWG logo and had depictions of the enthusiastically cheerful tiger mascot Shera with his arms outstretched, inviting us to "come out and play". The funny thing is that these were not on billboards that would have been widely visible, but ground level, on pavements and the sides of roads, often restricting pedestrian access, and always adding to an overall sense of constriction and even clutter.
If the idea was to advertise the Games, it was surely a most inefficient way of doing so. But no, advertising the Games was only a minor part of their purpose. So what were they actually for? It turns out that these strange objects are "view-cutters" — which must be the latest proud Indian addition to the ever-mutating English language — designed to conceal the dirtier and more sordid aspects of metropolitan Delhi from foreign visitors.
The idea is simply breathtaking — and it could only happen in India. Other countries and cities bid to host international events with a view to improving the infrastructure and facilities available for residents, and increasingly urban renewal has become an important element of this. For example, London's successful bid to host the next Olympic Games was predicated on its promise to develop the run-down inner city areas and clean up and regenerate the deprived zones by providing new urban utilities and services.

By contrast, what has Delhi done for the bulk of its residents, more than a quarter of whom still reside in chaotic, congested and deprived slum settlements? Most of these slums lack proper drainage, piped water supply, and even basic sanitation and toilet facilities that would be minimally adequate for a healthy life. In these settlements, people are cramped together in tiny and precarious housing of such poor quality that the recent rains have rendered many of them uninhabitable; electrical connections are often random and illegal; street lighting is patchy and inadequate; other services simply do not exist. The question of periodic cleaning of such areas by the municipal authorities is rarely if ever addressed.

So did the run-up to the Commonwealth Games involve some attempts to provide more infrastructure and better facilities in slums and other congested areas? Since this is all about Games, after all, and Shera wants us to come out and play, did the planners even consider the matter of providing playgrounds to children who now have nowhere at all to play in large parts of the city? Was there any attempt to democratise the sports facilities that are being created so that ordinary children will also have access?

Unfortunately, none of this was even thought of, much less attempted. Instead, the so-called beautification of the city has all been about exclusion and destruction of livelihoods. In the name of "streetscaping" (most of which reveals an aesthetic that is problematic in the extreme) street vendors have been removed with no compensation, and locals have been deprived of the conveniences such vendors provided. The rubble created by new construction has been pushed into side streets, shifting the problem onto residents.

And now on top of all this injury comes this unparalleled insult: that the poor are not to be visible, because the squalor, filth and congestion in which they are forced to live will create a bad impression for foreigners. We can't or won't try to fix it, but we can hide it, seems to be the motto. So up come the view-cutters. Typically, even this matter has been handled incompetently, so that attempts at drawing attention away from the dirty mess actually end up revealing it, as the makeshift huts of the poor rise jauntily above some of the screens, or as piles of rubble and dirt spill under other screens, or as gaps in the barriers expose the pathetic reality of the urban squalor that lurks behind the shiny new facades.

This extraordinary act of trying to conceal an unpleasant reality instead of dealing with it and atte mpting to improve it may indeed seem incredible to the foreigners visiting the city during the Games. So it will certainly add one more dimension to incredible India.

But for those who are familiar with the long-lived and wretchedly persistent tolerance of inequality that seems to be ingrained in Indian society, this may be only too credible. Among the more disgusting historical caste practices in the subcontinent was one that rendered certain castes — and even their shadows — "unseeable" by the higher castes. Those notions of pollution and purity have surely been abandoned by most of the population for some time now. But what we are seeing in Delhi now is really another version of this, whereby the poor and the dreadful conditions in which they have to live are to be rendered unseeable by foreigners, so as to preserve what we fondly think of as our positive external image. Even more than the actual reality, it is this ultimately ineffectual duplicity which should be a source of national shame.








In all the usual hyperbole which surrounds every Bollywood release — major or minuscule— we often forget that the man who is arguably India's biggest star lives down south. But every time a Rajinikanth film releases, we are reminded of the enormous, incredible, phenomenal hold which this superstar has on his fans.


The public response to Enthiran (titled Robot in Hindi) should be barometer enough. Fans in Chennai woke up at 2.45am to make it in time for the 4am show. Which Bollywood hero can boast of such fidelity? Even in Mumbai, Bollywood had to take a backseat to this new film, apparently the most expensive ever made in India and full of special effects and the tricks which the star is famous for. It is not just Mumbai's sizeable Tamil population which rushes to see Rajinikanth (born Shivaji Rao Gaekwad) in action but all film buffs as well.


Some time ago, Amitabh Bachchan had commented that Rajinikanth was India's real superstar. Enthiran, which has been released in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi, shows why. It provides welcome relief to a people filled with manias of different kinds. Rajinikanth rocks.







Some would say the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) was a redeemer.

After all the bad publicity and self-flagellation indulged in bysegments of the media and foolish politicians in the run-up to the games, it's obvious that India has got its act together at the nth hour. The naysayers can take a walk, now that we know that the taxpayer's money has not been totally thrown down the drain.


That it took just a ceremony to wipe out the cynicism indicates that some of the criticism was superficial and driven by private agenda. The huge turnout and the high-octane celebratory tone at the opening ceremony was the real deal. But even the grand opening was just a teaser.


The first day of the games has set the tone for the rest of the show. India's Soniya Chanu took a silver and her compatriot Sandhya Rani won a bronze in the women's 48kg weightlifting title. Rohan Bopanna has registered a victory against his Ugandan opponent in the first round singles of tennis. And this may be just the beginning — an auspicious one.


That is not to deny the mismanagement of funds and the 'blunders' which we in classic Indian style took care of just in time.


Or even to suggest that we discount the fact that we have committed several thousand crores to bring the games to fruition. Critics will question — and possibly with good reason — whether the money could not have been better spent elsewhere. But protagonists will remind us that the facilities created are not one-time. They will be with us long after the games are over.


The crux of the matter is this: having decided to anyway spend the money, how much sense does it make to defeat and humiliate ourselves by demoralising the people who worked hard to make the CWG a success? The fact is, thousands of Indians worked tirelessly to make it all work. Luckily for us, the fact that the opening ceremony went off without a hitch has restored our faith in ourselves, and the next few days will surely bring us greater glory — this time on the sporting field.







Real reforms often come in small doses rather than loud gestures. One such small movement forward, is about a Muslim couple renewing their marriage contract (nikahnama and iqrarnama) under which the husband assures his wife that he will avoid polygamy and oral talaq, promises more mehr (dower money given to the bride), and, in the event of a divorce, he will provide decent maintenance.


Few can deny that Muslim society is going through momentous changes, especially where it concerns women's rights. Every now and then, women offer prayers at mosques, still considered a male prerogative by the more orthodox elements.


A few years ago, Muslim women demanded the abolition of triple talaq. They did not succeed in that effort, but a concerned All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) was forced to come out with a model nikahnama that stipulated that the triple talaq be used only in the rarest of rare cases. The model nikahnama also lays down guidelines for taking a second wife. The Mumbai couple's contract, being promoted by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, shows that some women are ready to go beyond the AIMPLB's prescription.


Moreover, the Supreme Court recently reinterpreted the maintenance law to say that in case of a divorce, husbands have to maintain their former wives till such time as is necessary. Any reform from within a community is more long-lasting and has far greater impact than what legislation can achieve. Sati didn't die out merely because William Bentinck abolished the practice; it declined when Raja Ram Mohan Roy convinced a sufficient numbers of Hindus that it was an abhorrent practice.


The empowerment of Muslim women comes years after the Shah Bano case, when the Supreme Court had sought to make Muslim husbands pay maintenance to their divorced wives. A radical Muslim clergy and a weak government, headed by then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, caved in to overrule the Supreme Court ruling, by seeking to limit the maintenance divorced women could claim from their former husbands.


Yet, it would seem that since then, and especially after the Babri mosque was demolished in 1992, it is the progressives who have made major strides within the Muslim community. If only the government could start delivering on the education and jobs front, India's Muslims will emerge from their self-imposed isolation as confident partners in progress.








In an increasingly digital world, ironically, there may yet be a silver lining to the primitive nature of India's infrastructure: that it is not computer-controlled may make India less vulnerable than some other nations. Cyber-warfare by sophisticated attackers is a subtle and dangerous new tactic used by many armies and intelligence agencies.


Malicious entities can infiltrate computers running critical power grids, dams, air traffic control networks, bank networks, and so on. Under the remote control of hostile groups, power grids may shut down, dams may suddenly become 'water bombs', nuclear power plants may blow up and spew radiation, and planes may start colliding in the air. The implications are horrifying.


Some nations explicitly include cyber-warfare in long-range strategic plans. China, for instance, has a doctrine of "asymmetric warfare", most particularly against the US, a foe far stronger in conventional weapons, but vulnerable to cyber-attacks. China has also been implicated in large-scale intrusion into computers in Indian embassies and ministries.


It is certain that major powers have active defensive and offensive programmes to penetrate their enemies' computer systems. If India doesn't, it is at risk.


The latest example of cyber-attacks is the so-called Stuxnet worm discovered a few months ago, which focuses on industrial control systems made by Siemens. Circumstantial evidence suggests that it is explicitly meant to cripple or slow down Iran's nuclear programme. But it could be turned against India as well.


According to Symantec, 60% of Stuxnet infestations have been reported from Iran, 18% from Indonesia and 8% from India. Given the consistent hostility that western powers have shown towards India's nuclear programme, this should be cause for concern.


This should also raise questions regarding failures in other


sensitive programmes — for instance, the latest failed launches of the GSLV and the Prithvi. Are there worms in the ISRO's and DRDO's systems?


Iran is certainly taking this issue seriously. The reaction from Mohammed Liayi, head of the information technology council at the ministry of industries, was stark:"An electronic war has been launched against Iran". Forbes magazine called the attack a "game-changer". The worm is so sophisticated that Computerworld magazine felt it had to be government-backed.


The Wall Street Journal suspects the US, the UK and Israel.


Microsoft reported that 45,000 computers are known to be infected with Stuxnet. It utilises several previously unknown security holes in Microsoft Windows to attack a Siemens application called WinCC that runs Scada (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems that manage valves, pipelines and industrial equipment, according to The Economist.


Scada systems are usually not connected to the Internet, for obvious security reasons.

Apparently, Stuxnet was spread using USB pendrives, the memory sticks used to transfer data. The attack also depended on that most low-tech device: human curiosity. People picked up thumb drives they found lying around, and unknowingly infected their systems, allowing the worm to spread around the local-area network!


There are a number of factors that make this attack unique. For one, most worms and viruses are written to cause maximum, random damage and, therefore, target the most common systems — hence, for instance the preponderance of such attacks on Windows, which runs 90% of the world's PCs, and not on Macs or Unix/Linux systems. This worm, on the other hand, is only interested in particular industrial equipment from a particular manufacturer, and furthermore, it targets only specific configurations or processes — it does not attack others.


Therefore, the attackers knew precisely what they were looking to disrupt. The finger of suspicion at the moment points to the Iranian nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz. This facility hosts many centrifuges, those sophisticated devices (AQ Khan famously 'transferred' centrifuge technology from Europe to Pakistan) that increase the proportion of U-235 in natural uranium to produce weapons-grade material.


Given Israel's obsession with Iran's N-programme, it is the most likely suspect. Besides, experts decoding the "well-written", "ground-breaking", "impressive" code have found obscure clues about Esther, a character in Jewish mythology who helps fend off a Persian attack. Of course, this could well be disinformation.


Nevertheless, India had better take this lesson to heart. Given its almost complete lack of friends on the world stage, the "string of pearls" strategy that China is using to contain India, and the hostility of the non-proliferation ayatollahs in the Obama Administration, India will be — and may already be — the target of sophisticated computer attacks that it is woefully unprepared for.








We cannot really know the entire universe and its magnanimity because of our limited ability to perceive. The brain works on afrequency channel; our sense organs have limited capacity but the universe, like the divine, is limitless. In this limited time we call life, we keep on doing our work.


There are two types of work: one to uplift our spirit and the other is to perform our duties. Darkness covers one who does not realise or attend to the self in life. Such people live with no centredness; they live in the darkness of the world, and when they leave the world, they will be in darkness also. When you leave the body in meditation, you achieve a higher plane.


How do you know if you have realised the self? The atma is motionless; it is the substratum of the universe and everything is in it. Faster than the speed of light, faster than the mind, youcan never comprehend the self through the senses.


The seer, the one who sees, who feels, understands, is the self. This cannot be comprehended though the senses, yet every action in the universe is run through the consciousness. A seed sprouts because there is consciousness in the seed. The entire universe is filled with this prana or life and you are the container of this, not the contents.








Despite high human population - about one sixth humans of the world packed in an area which is one third of China or America - Indians have unique position in the world in the field of wildlife conservation.


In Asia, no country is near India in richness of wildlife and its preservation, although they were equally rich in wildlife before the Second World War.


Status of wild mega mammals is indicator of degree of wildlife management. At present, out of 48,000 Asiatic elephant in Asia, 28,000-30,000 elephants are in the Indian forests; of 20,000 leopards in Asia, 13,000-14,000 leopards are in India; despite present crisis of tiger, about half of the total tigers are in Indian forests. Similar stories can be mentioned for other species also.


In 1890s, LL Fenton wrote that the Asiatic lion was very common in Iran and Iraq but was on verge of extinction in the Gir forest of India. After a few decades since then, the lion disappeared from Asia Minor.


But the story of the Asiatic lion in the Gir forest turned one of the best conservation stories in the world. Number of lion improved from few dozen at the beginning of twentieth century to over 410 in 2010 in the Gir forest of Gujarat. Now number is a problem as lions move in the villages in new areas to reclaim their territories.


Gujarat has few other successful wildlife management stories which may be enlisted among the best conservation stories in the world.


The number of Indian wild ass, locally called Ghudkhar increased from about 400 individuals in 1960s to over 4,000 individuals in and around the Rann of Kutch at present. As per the report of the Forest Survey of India, the mangrove cover in the state has improved from less than 400 sq. km. in 1993 to about 1,050 sq. km. in 2009. The tree cover in the non-forest area has also improved due to intense social forestry activities.


Now villages in Gujarat are greener than their green covers in 1970s. This was achieved despite tremendous development pressure because the character and behavior of the Indian society have deep root in cultural and religious strength that evolved and persisted over a period.


India is a land of Lord Gautam Buddha, Lord Mahavir and Mahatma Gandhi, the leaders who have advocated non-violence and respect to the living organisms. Unlike other countries, especially the developed world, wildlife conservation is deep rooted in the Indian culture.


Our mythology, ancient art, literature, folk lore, religion, the rock edicts and scriptures, all provide ample proof that wildlife enjoyed a privileged position in India's ancient past - Kautilya's Arthashastra reveals the attention focused on wildlife in the Mauryan period: certain forests were declared protected and called Abhayaranya like the present day 'sanctuary'. Heavy penalties, including capital punishment, were prescribed for offenders who entrapped, killed or otherwise molested elephants, deer, bison, birds, or fish, amongst other animals.


Currently, all is not well in the conservation field. Present Indian society has global interaction. The world of consumerism has influenced the new generation. A different kind of war, waged between conservation and development, and between the forest and the tribal is already being fought.


Like people of the western world, the present Indians have less tolerance to wildlife. Old Maharajas are gone but they are now replaced by another set of Neo-Maharajas - industrialists - a biggest land grabber who form a nexus with corrupt politicians and bureaucrats to establish their empire at the cost of natural ecosystems and livelihood of poor people. It is weakening our basis of sustainable development; there is a need to counter the forces responsible for loss of nature and natural resources by creating awakening in the society.


Despite these problems, there is small positive change in certain areas where wildlife disappeared or got depleted. Within tribal society, there has been change in attitude of people.


A large number of tribal in villages in Sabarkantha, Panchmahals and Dahod have left consuming liquor and eating meat and they have become Bhagat. Sighting of animals including peacock, python etc were rare a few decades ago in these areas but now it is very common, as people have stopped killing wild animals.


How we transform our society in the forested region is a challenge, but future of wildlife conservation depends how we enrich our tradition and culture as it is happening in several villages in Gujarat. But this may not happen in isolation because the offence or onslaught of elite groups or neo maharajas on nature and environment cause unrest and tension in the society - a bigger challenge for wildlife conservation.


(The author is additional principal chief conservator of forests, social forestry, Gujarat)








India's population is a billion-plus and increasing daily. Our public endeavours are in millions and on a day-to-day basis, we meet at least 10 people.


These numbers are an indication of the challenge Indians face, but policymakers do not seem to recognise this problem.


A look at numerous public places reveals myopic thinking displayed by public administrators, and now, by private players. Our public places are cramped; they provide no scope for interaction and, above all, there are no proper seating arrangements.


John Ruskin said: "The measure of any great civilisation is its cities and a measure of a city's greatness is to be found in the quality of its public spaces, its parks and squares." Going by Ruskin's definition, Bangalore is at the bottom of the list of great cities!


Take for example the newly-opened Passport Seva Kendra on Lalbagh Road. Even though applicants are expected to visit the centre only after an appointment date is fixed, there are scores of people on the Seva Kendra campus. People sit on steps, near the gate, on parked vehicles and compound walls.


Indian psyche is such that we do not go alone or in twos. We are a nation of crowds and we move in herds. Although the seating arrangements at the Kendra could be adequate, the authorities concerned clearly did not plan for the Indian way of thinking and movement.


Have a look at bus shelters. The design was never meant to provide comfort to Bangaloreans, who're goaded to use public transport. Shelters are built in such a way that they occupy the full length of footpaths, thus blocking movement of pedestrians.


The seating arrangement is of no use to commuters as the benches have no backrest and the side panels block the vision. If you sit, you're sure to miss the bus and if you stand, then you will block pedestrians.


These issues can be resolved if we had an advisory body on urban space and its management.


Queensland in Australia has the Board for Urban Places. It's agenda is to champion high-quality urban design and help foster a holistic approach for land use and infrastructure planning to create vibrant and adaptable urban places for people. The board provides general and project-specific advice on urban design, planning, architecture,


landscape architecture, sustainability and built environment issues.


Urban design is key to make a city livable. It is about making connections between people and places, movement and urban form, nature and built fabric. Urban design is derived from, but transcends, planning and transportation policy, architectural design, development economics, engineering and landscape.


Are we there yet? We are in the fastest growing city, but not in a city that thinks about its citizens.









The leadership contest in the British Labour Party between brothers Miliband — Ed and David — was rather unusual, and it turned out to be interesting as well. The one thing that the contest between the brothers showed is that fierce competition was all that matters and politics is not about issues and ideas anymore. It is a friendly sporting contest and let the better brother win.


The younger brother, Ed, emerged the winner. After the electoral defeat in the summer after 11 years in power, the change in leadership was inevitable. Ed in his acceptance speech hinted that it is time to reassert the old Labour values and possibly bring back the trade unions.


New Labour is out and Old Labour is waiting to be born. Critics have already pronounced the verdict: Labour will not be able to win the next election under the new Old Labour even if the younger Miliband manages to carry through his agenda. There were others who said that he was being insincere, even intellectually dishonest, because he is an inveterate New Labour groupie.


It is too early to speculate about the future of either Miliband or his defeated party. What is certain is that the Tony Blair-Gordon Brown-Peter Mandelson New Labour act is done and over with. It is the right time to look at the pseudo-modernism that these three self-serving politicians and their camps brought to British politics and how they managed to succeed as well for quite a while.


There was no doubt that Labour Party had to reinvent itself after Margaret Thatcher made the Conservative Party almost invincible in the 1980s. But Blair-Brown-Mandelson have done the smart thing by freely borrowing Thatcher's market credo and getting rid of the trade unions which had been decimated by Thatcher in the early 1980s.


The New Labour made in the image of Thatcher's Conservative Party was not a genuine political revolution. It was all soundbites, intelligent manoeuvres and an attempt to make Britain appear to be a world player of some influence and importance. Blair managed to do this by hitching his star to that of Democrat Bill Clinton and then Republican George W Bush at the White House, giving the false impression that Britain was once again an important player.


The 'sexed-up' dossier on Iraq was a pathetic attempt to conjure the casus belli. It had to fall apart. Fluff cannot stand the test of reality and New Labour thought that they could get away. The Iraq war was just a conspicuous example of all that was wrong with New Labour. It showed how the counter-culture generation of the 1960s and 1970s took over the political reins in the 1990s and succeeded in making politics a frivolous affair.

Miliband does not promise to bring back seriousness to politics even as he looks in the direction of Old Labour. He remains a man without convictions, who is using his intelligence to sense the mood in the party and in the country at a time of economic crisis. It is true that Gordon Brown won brownie points in skillfully managing the immediate fallout of the recession but people did not believe the good work he did because of the lack of seriousness of New Labour.

One of the dubious contributions of New Labour to British politics is that of a spin doctor — that it is enough to put a gloss on deeds that do not withstand rational scrutiny. New Labour has trivialised politics and Miliband's challenge should be to get rid of the bad mental habits associated with it.









For the last nearly four months the coalition government of National Conference and Congress, headed by chief minister Omar Abdullah, has been virtually in coma while the state is being 'held'-not run--by the men in uniform. The enforcement of armed control over citizenry is total with not even a semblance of civilian authority being in existence in any sphere of public activity. This type of make-believe 'democratic' arrangement would have disappeared in any other part of the world where real democracy is practised. The ruling political establishment has become a serious liability in every sense of the word. Its existence is less than nominal; its authority does not exist anymore; it has been reduced to a dysfunctional liability and, worst of all, it has severed all connections with its political root thereby eliminating even a remote possibility of its partial revival. The leadership of the coalition government has been found wanting in everything: It failed to deliver on its promise of good governance when, by its own admission, the overall atmosphere was quite conducive for infusing vitality to the administrative apparatus between January, 2009 and June, 2010. There were no serious hurdles in its way to get going. Yet there was no movement, except on paper or in hollow speeches. Obviously, too much was being taken for granted and for too long. The result is before us, loud and clear.
The government has nothing worthwhile to show for its one and a half years existence since the assembly elections in 2008. If anything, there has been constant decline in every segment of administrative performance. There is total disconnect between the political executive supposed to be guiding and overseeing the official machinery and the administrative mechanism entrusted with the responsibility of executing policies and decisions of the government. Almost each and every commitment made to the public has been observed in breach only. The foremost among them being the assurance that the quality of life of ordinary citizens would be 'improved' and that its better safety guaranteed under the present dispensation. 21 months later, all that has happened is that quality of life has been degraded and its safety made more vulnerable than ever before. The government's abject failure to address its too well known political causes is unpardonable. The governance-deficit is by now acknowledged to be among the main causes for triggering the present unrest in Kashmir Valley which is gradually spreading to other parts of the state. This fact has been conceded even by the patrons of the sick regime based in New Delhi. They are either unable to work out a viable alternative arrangement or are waiting for a more opportune moment to apply correctives. Meanwhile, the situation on the ground continues to slip from bad to worse.

Going by the utterances and body language of the chief minister it is obvious that he is not the one given to learning by his experience. He is obsessed by his self-righteousness. His own conduct as that of his administration betrays intolerance. Justifying coercive means of governance, suppression of criticism and voice of opposition by gagging media leaves nothing to doubt about the real mental make-up of the existing regime. It is this type of narrow attitude that has brought the state to near-ruin. The disconnect between the rulers and the ruled is starkly evident in the disconnect between the chief minister and his own National Conference party mechanism. This has robbed the ruling apparatus of any opportunity of receiving genuine feedback from the grassroot which is always different, often the opposite of, what reaches the higher echelons from the top-controlled official channels. Near-total dependence on coercive means of governance, in total disregard of its political component, indicates that the input and feedback is strictly restricted to that coming from police and intelligence channels. This information is always self-serving, filtered as it is by influential authorities entrenched within the system. A weak political executive at the top finds itself helpless and feels more comfortable with the filtered input. This vicious circle continues to be the most visible feature of governance in Jammu and Kashmir today.

A regime in coma for so long tends to become an unbearable liability over a period of time. However, till then the state as well as its people will have to continue paying its heavy price.








The latest demands of the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) seeking compensation for the losses suffered by traders and industrialists of Jammu region due to unrest in Kashmir valley do not appear to have been given a serious thought by the state government. This is not for the first time that the demands of the CCI have not only been cold-shouldered by the government but also an impression has been created that the restive situation in Kashmir has not affected the trade in other two regions of the state. Unfortunately, sight has been lost of the fact that the regular stocking for the winter months and supplies for development works in Kashmir and Ladakh region during the summer season when the communications are open to all the land-locked belts. It is now the time that these supplies will be stopped after closure of the roads to Ladakh region and many other areas of Kashmir valley. Same will be the case in respect of many areas in Jammu region also. Traders and industrialists from Jammu region, which also acts as a ware house for many activities, are involved in a big way in carrying out such activities and supplement the supplies which cannot be met from Kashmir valley alone. About 75 percent of the industrial output from Jammu region is meant for Kashmir valley and Ladakh region and the trade activities are inter-dependent on all the regions of the state. The fact that the economy of the state is inter-dependent on al the three regions dawned only in the recent years when Jammu also plunged into turmoil during the Amarnath land row agitation in 2008. The agitation in itself served a severe blow to the economy of the state as a whole. Many traders and industrialists suffered huge losses in both Kashmir valley and Jammu region and the demand for compensation and stimulus package has come jointly from both the regions. But sadly, the state government's promises to provide necessary relief to this sector are yet to be fulfilled even after a lapse of two years' time. At this stage, the government needs to examine these demands seriously and look into ways and means to help the trade and industrial sectors so that economic activity can be brought back on rails in the larger interest of the state.










Nation heaved a sigh of relief following the three judges delivering the verdict on Ayodhya case (30th Sptember 2010). There was no violence anywhere, something which was feared very much. The day passed off peacefully and the fear that violence will engulf parts of the country proved to be wrong, thanks to the maturity shown by large sections of population. As such the judgment was an exercise of sorts trying to do a balancing act, between all the parties involved, Ram Lalla Virajman, Nirmohi Akhada and Sunni wakf board. The title of the land has been divided into three each sharing one part. Also court has declared since Hindus believe the 'birth place' of Lord Ram to be below the place where the central dome of the mosque stood, that place should be allotted to Hindus. In response RSS chief in a jubilant mood proclaimed that now the path for a grand Ram temple has been opened at the site and all the parties should cooperate in this "national" work.
As Mulayam Singh Yadav has correctly put it, the Muslim community is feeling betrayed. First their mosque is entered into by miscreants who install the Ram Lalla idols there. Then in a well orchestrated assault RSS combine demolishes the Mosque and now the court operates on the RSS theory that Lord Ram was born at that spot. It seems if matters go the way they are going there is no need for scientific disciplines of History, Archeology and others as a section of political force can gradually build up the faith, act upon that and then the court will legitimize the criminal acts in the name of faith of a section of society. The law of the land will come to such a pass is beyond the imagination of those who wish to adhere to the values of freedom movement and the Constitution of India.

Just to recall RSS combine, more popularly known as Sangh Parivar, picked up the issue of Ram Temple in Ayodhya in the decade of 1980s and later orchestrated the faith of section of Hindus that Lord Ram was born precisely at the spot where the mosque is located. Interestingly the trend of Lord Ram being regarded as the core deity of Hindu religion came up in the medieval times, more particularly after Goswami Tulsi Das wrote the story of Lord Ram in the popular Awadhi language. Till that time Valmiki's Sanskrit Ramayana was the major one prevalent in the society and being the language of elite, worship of Lord Ram was restricted to a section of Hindus. Tulsidas was pulled up by the Brahmins for his writing the story of Ram in Lok Bhasha, Avadhi, as Brahmins were supposed to be using Dev Bhasha; Sanskrit only. Tulsi Das was around thirty years old when it is claimed that the Ram Temple was demolished. The demolition claim is unlikely to be true as had such a demolition taken place Tulsidas must have mentioned this in his writings. As such the later interpretations of Ram have been so different for different people. 

One understands that Kings had been ruling for the sake of power and wealth and victor kings many a times destroyed the defeated king's holy place to humiliate the defeated king. The British introduced communal historiography aiming to pursue the policy of 'divide and rule' propagated that Muslim Kings destroyed Hindu temples to insult Hindu religion. This type of Historiography spread hatred amongst communities and became the foundation on which the communal violence started taking place in due course. As such Babri Mosque was a protected monument, under the custody of Government of India. Government failed to get the illegally installed Ram Lalla idols removed from the site and also failed to protect the mosque form the onslaught of RSS combines' attack on the mosque in 1992. So de facto, with this judgment the RSS agenda of dividing the nation along communal lines is being legitimized by ignoring the fact of installation of idols and by turning a blind eye to the Babri demolition, coordinated by different wings of RSS combine. The crimes done by this stream have been richly rewarded by this verdict!

Now RSS and its progeny is taking the line that Muslims should hand over the land of their share to RSS front, to see that the aspirations of 'Nation' are fulfilled and a grand Ram Temple is built there. It is not only Hindus who constitute the nation. All the Hindus of the nation do not hold any such belief about the birth place of Lord Ram. All the Hindus do not want a Ram Temple there. As such majority of Hindus have kept aloof from this issue, many of them have looked with horror and disbelief the way the faith of people has been manipulated to catapult BJP to the seat of political power. Since the issue was highlighted and brought to the electoral arena; Hindu majority have never voted for the agenda of Ram temple. No doubt a section of Hindus has been won over to the Ram temple agenda; the majority of Hindus have not approved it as the results of elections show. The latest surveys also confirm that it is not an issue for most of the Hindus, but is an issue only for a handful of Hindus. Moreover the younger generation does not have anything to do with these types of identity related issues and that too imposed upon the nation through criminal means, the crime of installing Ram Lalla idols and the crime of demolishing the Babri Mosque.

Congress is calling for a negotiated settlement. What can be a negotiated settlement? One; it has to be based on justice, recognizing the due rights of each party involved and there has to a spirit of give and take. Do those calling for compromise will promise that the matters related to equity and security of Muslim community be granted? The Muslim community has been sliding down on the scales of social and economic indices. Will Sachar Committee- Rangnath Misra Committee reports be implemented in right earnest? Will RSS support such a 'give'? Will Muslim community be able to live in security hereafter? India has 13.4% of Muslms in the population. In the communal violence, more than 80% of victims are Muslims! Will RSS withdraw the 'Hate spreading books' from its Shishu Mandirs? Will its Shakhas stop doing the 'Hate Propaganda' against the minorities? 

For a moment one feels like supporting a compromise formula. Sure and that's a good thing. One may be willing to talk of give and take, negotiation if the battered Muslim minority and also Christians are promised equal status as citizens, the baseless propaganda against them is held back, and the Congress takes it upon itself to fulfill the promise of Manmohan Singh that Muslim minorities have the first right to development resources as they have been left behind due to the social-economic discrimination and due to the politically motivated violence against them. Will all the guilty of communal violence be punished? Those behind Delhi anti Sikh massacre, Mumbai violence and Gujarat violence are roaming with their bloated chests; can they be brought to book before a negotiated settlement is talked about? In a way can we trust the state for abiding by the rule of law to protect its citizens before demands of sacrifice from them are articulated?

One can very well say that the very politics of Communalism is using Ram Temple issue to violate the Indian Constitution and the amity amongst the communities. One can appeal to the minority communities to make some sacrifices but one knows that they will get nothing in return. The way communalism has seeped into the very vitals of our society and polity it has created situations where minorities are being treated as 'second class citizens'. The dominating 'Religion based nationalism', the politics of Hindutva with the agenda of Hindu Rashtra, will not let them live in peace and dignity. For RSS combine the matters of bread butter and shelter are secondary and imaginary constructs culled out from mythology form the base of their identity politics, the politics of Ram Temple, Ram Setu, Cow slaughter ban and what have you. We are in a catch 22 situation. The communalization of polity and society is so much that now faith, systematically constructed by a section of political stream is becoming the basis of law. As noted Film maker Anand Patwardhan pointed out on the day of Ayodhya verdict, it is 'Victory of Hindu Sharia: A sad day for India'. One hopes the younger generation, and all those believing in the Indian constitution will try to move on from the identity politics, politics which abuses faith for short cuts to power and paves the way for a sane society concerned about the human justice, and affirmative action for weaker sections of society.








And as I watched the proceedings on TV yesterday after the Ayodhya judgement, I looked with dismay and disgust at the lawyers creating more chaos for an already confused nation. They came out of court, shoved, pushed and manhandled each other, made victory signs and read out paras and sentences that suited their liking. Not just men, there were women too, especially one rather vehement and violent one with a voice that sounded like a banshee wailing. 

Can't we be more organized and dignified?

Couldn't there have been one spokesperson?

All that shouting and jostling and yelling into the mikes of TV channels could easily have sparked of a riot, didn't those so called lawyers understand that?

But ever so often I see that all we want is cheap publicity even if it means chaos in getting it. The other day I took pictures of a little prize distribution in my own colony, and everybody but everybody tried to crawl into the photo, till I couldn't find the prizewinner, and the prize giver.

"Where's the prize winner?" I asked.

"Let it be, just click!"

And I can imagine that's what happened yesterday. "What's the judgement madam?"

"Let it be, let the TV cameras shoot me?"

"What are you saying?" I feel like asking them, because the man next to Madam Vehement is shouting equally loudly, not perturbed in the least that he is out-drowning madam next to him, and Madam Vehement is also not bothered about him, to temper her tone, after all, she is being seen on TV, so who's bothered what she speaks. And in the evening, she goes home, and her neighbours say, "We saw you on TV!"

"Yes we saw you on TV," says her husband.

"Didn't my black coat shine out sharply?"

"And my hair, did you like the way I combed it, before coming in front of the cameras?"

"Yes," says her husband, "But we didn't understand what you were saying!"

"Neither did I," says the lady, "Neither did I!"

All that shouting and jostling and yelling into the mikes of TV channels, all that jumping on stage and even a politician cum lawyer giving uncalled for advice, didn't a government know how easily it could easily have sparked of riots?

It's time we had a law in place for these who create chaos for their own cheap publicity..!






Indeed, it is educative and interesting the way the English language has evolved with the passage of time. It reveals how we as human beings have grown up in a part of the world. From long meandering sentences we have come to a state where we revel in being quick and precise. It is for the linguists to find out if this change has taken place because of the demands of our time (we tend to interpret it in terms of efficiency and quality) or the exposure of the language beyond its original home. For the time being we shall refer to an expression that goes back to the Tudor period (1485 and 1603 specifically in relation to the history of England). It reads in John Heywood's "A dialogue Conteynyng Prouerbes and Epigrammes" (brought out in 1562): "If there be any, as I hope there be none, That would lese (lose) both his eyes to lese his foe one, Then fear I there be many, as the world go'th, That would lese one eye to lese their foes both." It is titled "of Spite." There is then the 1796 Grose's 1796 edition of the "Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue" which says: "He cut off his nose to revenged of his face. Said of one who, to be revenged on his neighbour, has materially injured himself." These terms are precursor of the present idiom that we frequently use: "Cut off your nose to spite your face." Over the centuries we will find that the spellings of the words have undergone major changes (containing, proverbs and epigrams, for instance) but their meaning remains the same. Thus the import of phrases that evolve out of them also remains the same although presently these are clearly much shorter and snappy. 

As a result there is no change in their relevance. We are reminded of this saying at this point in time because of something that has happened in our Summer Capital. It is a pity that a rowdy mob has foiled a bid by the Railways to start repair work which in turn has become inevitable because of the extensive damage inflicted on cabins and tracks, among other property, in a long spell of violent protests. The crowd has pelted the workers with stones in Bagh-e-Mehtab area. It has not spared either the train that brought the men and material to set in motion the badly needed renovation. The Railway Protection Force and the Government Railway Police had to first employ teargas and then open fire in the air to disperse the agitators. Naturally, the Railways has been forced to reconsider its plans. Worried about the safety of its employees and equipment it has decided to wait till the State Government provides a safe and secure environment. What else can it do? 

Who are the losers if the railway apparatus is not put in order? Clearly we as the commuters are the sufferers. What our fellow citizens have done in Srinagar is a typical example of "cutting off one's nose to spite one's face." They have indulged in a self-destructive activity. Of course, they are emboldened because the majority of us keep silent. We don't approve of their vandalism but don't muster courage enough to tell them that they are wrong and must stop it. 







Just have a look at the following four developments reported in this newspaper on a single day last week-end. One is that Pakistan army violates cease-fire in Kirni sector of Poonch district by resorting to medium firing in forward areas for about an hour. This is the second instance of its kind in a week. Earlier it had targeted our posts in Krishna Ghati and Jhalas sectors in the same district with heavy mortar and rock shelling. The other incident is about a major infiltration attempt in Machhil sector near the Line of Control (LoC) in Kupwara district. Five militants are killed in a bid to cross over. There is no respite on the count. For yet another happening tells us about the challenge we have on hand. There is an encounter in Kangan in Ganderbal district. Three militants are eliminated in the exchange of fire. In a related event, the search is on for the members of their ilk in Mendhar and Thanna Mandi belts in the twin districts of Poonch and Rajouri on this side of the Pir Panjal. Outside this State and country Pakistan --- actually in faraway New York ---- Pakistan seeks to keep alive another front. Its deputy envoy to the United Nations makes a fantastic observation: "The Indian Government is well advised to take careful stock of its own policies and conduct that includes supporting terrorist elements in neighbouring countries which contributes to the problems facing South Asia." Has Paul Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany, not been reborn in our neighbourhood? If we put these occurrences together we will understand how Pakistan is carrying out its pledge of providing "moral, political and diplomatic support" to the "Kashmiris." It is providing bulk of the ingredients for what it describes "indigenous freedom struggle." Is there anything more ironical? If a section of its army itself is not active it is busy pushing in the agents of murder and mayhem to play havoc with our lives. There are very credible reports that it always keeps groups of militants under its caring eye in order to ensure their smooth passage into our part. At the same time it strives to create a stir on global forums. 

What is has said now about this country overwhelms all its previous records. It must have amused the world which is fully aware that Pakistan is the sponsor and breeding ground of all terrorism across the globe. We continue to pay a heavy price being just next door to the source of mischief. For its part New Delhi has done well to assert: "The track record of India speaks to eloquently. We don't need to defend our position… We reject all untenable and unsolicited remarks…This is totally unacceptable." It has reiterated a statement of fact: "Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of India, is the target of Pakistan-sponsored militancy and terrorism." It is important to keep the record straight in such situations. However, our long bitter experience should leave little doubt that it is not enough to match Pakistan word for word. Our neighbour is in no mood to learn easily. What else can we do to make it wiser? Should we not pay it back in the same coin in all spheres?











The policy of benign neglect of national security and protectionist attitudes towards serious neighborhood problems for the sake of misconceived good relations with hostile neighbours amounts to giving them an iron rod to hit our head. Presence of more than 11000 Chinese soldiers in Gilgit-Baltistan and attaching disputed tag to Kashmir and calling detached areas as Northern Pakistan and Arunachal Pradesh as Southern Tibet is a result of weaknesses in foreign policy. China's open support to Pakistan on Kashmir issue constitutes a new and serious challenge to Indian sovereignty over J&K. Former CM of J&K reminded the nation from the Parliament that areas illegally occupied by Pakistan are Indian territories but our Prime Ministers don't even whisper about it when they address UN General Assembly or public meetings on the LOC. There is a historical proof of this statement. Maharaja Hari Singh acceded Jammu & Kashmir (an independent country / nation after midnight 14 Aug 1947) to Indian Union which included Jammu, Kashmir, Northern Areas, Ladakh, Trans Karakoram Tract, POK and Aksai Chin. Aksai Chin has been consumed by China since 1963 and many strategic places in the remaining areas are being taken under control one by one. 

On 22 October 1947 Pakistani Mujahideens attacked J&K from North and West and on 01 November British officer still commanding Gilgit Scouts at Gilgit engineered a coup and took its possession forcibly. Thereafter Pakistan included Gilgit in its territories by a parliamentary legislation and achieved a master strategic victory over India. But unfortunately India never realized strategic importance of Northern Areas where boundaries of three empires met. Pt Nehru himself a great historian should have known it. He should have looked beyond Srinagar and analysed why British took control of Northern Areas from the State on lease when J&K was under their suzerainty and returned it back to Maharaja just before the transfer of power. Jinnah proved one up by annexing these areas thereby establishing direct contiguity with China and snapping Indian direct land link with Soviet Union & Afghanistan; both friendly nations. Had India landed a Coy of army at Gilgit in October 1947, the history of sub continent would have been different. This mistake can truthfully be classified as Himalayan Blunder. Despite Dr. Farooq's nostalgic assertions for Northern Areas the vital issue continues to allude Indian security concern. 

Whole world acknowledges J&K & Arunachal as integral parts of India and areas across LOC as illegally held Indian territory. China also held same view in the past and had never directly questioned status of J&K in any bilateral dialogue. Its former President Jiang Zemin had advised Pakistan to resolve Kashmir issue bilaterally. Seeing India bogged down with unrest in the valley, China has upped the ante. China is engaged in upgrading Pak Nuclear capabilities and is helping her shift Nuclear arsenal from unfriendly Baluchistan to tunnels in remote areas of Gilgit-Baltistan. China & Pakistan have jointly opposed lifting of nuclear sanctions and Indian entry in UN Security Council. China is aggressively containing Indian influence in the Asian Region. China has built strong support base in Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Chinese aggressive support to Pakistan on Kashmir and other threatening postures should leave us in no doubt that China is preparing for a show down in the future. Hence there is a strong case for India to change the focus from internal problems to external threats particularly emanating from the North. 

Kashmir is an issue created and promoted by Kashmiris, mainly Abdullahs. Let them put their heads together and resolve the local conflict themselves. There was no reason why India should have got involved from day one and continues doing so in its internal strife. There is an elected govt which should have acted wisely on the occurrence of 1st innocent killing. Luckily the tempers have cooled down after the initiation of process of implementation of 8 Point Initiative. The conditions prevail for the start of process of reconciliation and reconstruction by the govt. Let NC prove its Nationalistic credentials by agitating for the retrieval of Pak occupied areas rather than harping on autonomy, security forces and AFSPA. Various social and political dispensations of Jammu expressed their apprehensions to APD of imminent danger from the North. Various suggestions to thwart this danger are given below:- 

(i) India should launch a strong diplomatic initiatives for the vacation of occupied areas. Good beginning has been made by the Foreign Minister in this direction on the eve of his departure for New York. India must promote defense ties with Afghanistan, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan to check Chinese encirclement.

(ii) Public in all three regions of J&K should protest and encourage sympathetic protests across the LOC for vacation of occupied areas and unification of erstwhile state of Maharaja. Coalition govt of J&K should build up Kashmiri reaction to the Chinese presence in Gilgit-Baltistan and propose Union Territory status to Ladakh. India must administer Ladakh centrally to thwart threat emanating from North. Common voice of three regions to be united as before 1947 will propel much needed nationalism and integration. 

(iii) Raise Dogra, Gujjar and Kashmir Scouts as elite Guerilla Force for operations across the LOC like Taliban versus Soviet Army in Afghanistan. Ethnically and linguistically people of Baltistan are related to Ladakhis while the people of Gilgit, Chitral are Dardic and speak Persian & Kashmiri language. Majority population of POK is Punjabi and related to the culture of Jammu Division. Such affinities will prove very useful in guerilla warfare. 

Gilgit, Baltistan and Chitral were annexed by Dogra rulers to their empire to gain strategic depth for the defence of Kashmir and the logic holds good even today. Pakistan was declared aggressor by international community as reflected in UN Security Council Resolutions of 1948-49 and Pakistan was asked to vacate occupied areas of J&K but unfortunately this has not happened which can't dilute the Indian claim. Therefore recovery of these areas is very vital for the defence of India. Hence there is urgent need to take effective initiatives to neutralise threat from the North by strong diplomatic as well as military means.









Recent visit of 39-member parliamentary delegation led by the Home Minister to Jammu and Kashmir should help parliamentarians and through them larger sections of civil society understand the dimensions of Kashmir issue. Historical run through will help.

Conditions of accession to the Indian Union were laid down by the ruler in October 1947 and not by National Conference. Power was handed over to the National Conference leadership on the basis of its popularity. Formation of a populist but not an elected government by Sheikh Abdullah in October 1947 meant NC endorsed the conditions laid down by the ruler. It was also stipulated that after the invaders were thrown out of state territory, the Maharaja would resume power, and work out political dispensation of the state. 
NC's insistence on giving special status to J&K in the Indian Constitution was stubbornly resisted by most of the Congress stalwarts and legal luminaries in the Constituent Assembly. Even Nehru had to make an effort to convince himself of the logic behind the demand. Assisted by his lieutenant Afzal Beg, the Sheikh fought his case in the Constituent Assembly actually on regional basis because his delegation had no representative either from Jammu or Ladakh region.

With no experience of how a federation will have to run the practical job of administrating and developing a welfare state out of a country just liberated from colonial rule, NC leadership, in its initial two or three years of power, fancied some vague contours of an autonomous state losing the sight of vital elements of security and economy on which its existence hinged.

This lay at the root of bizarre events of August 1953. Nobody in New Delhi wanted to usurp constitutional, legal and political rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. But again nobody wanted the State to woefully lag behind other federating units of the Indian Union. Who knew better than Prime Minister Nehru of stark poverty in which the people of the State lived? 

A conflict of perceptions was developing in Kashmir. Congress had fought long national struggle against colonial rule while NC had fought a sub-regional struggle against a local "autocratic" ruler who, at the end of the day, opted for accession to a secular-democratic Indian Union. Some apprehension of passing from the hands of a local Hindu monarchy into those of a Hindu-majority democracy was inherent and had to be assuaged. Indian State consented to J&K having its own constitution. The monarchy was liquidated despite a solemn pledge to reconsider the status of the ruler if he kept away from the State for six months. 

For the Indian State the task following the events of 1953 was that of initiating rapid infrastructural development of J&K. The previous regime had created bottlenecks blocking even small developmental works. It functioned more autocratically than the castigated monarchy. Food scarcity threatened life in urban settlements to the verge of famine. It was Bakhshi, the greatest of Kashmiri leaders who delivered the people of the State from penury and frustration.

Still considerate to the Sheikh, Nehru agreed that he meet Pakistani President Ayub Khan to discuss a solution of Kashmir. The Sheikh writes in his biography that Ayub Khan outright rejected the idea of confederation of India, Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir.

This was the second time Pakistan rejected independence of Kashmir. The first time was when shortly before the declaration of India's independence the Sheikh deputed two of his senior party members, Sadiq and Karra, to meet Jinnah in Lahore. They proposed to him that if he agreed to three items namely defence, foreign relations and currency, NC would opt for accession to Pakistan. Jinnah rejected the offer reportedly exclaiming, "Kashmir is in my pocket". In October 1947 Pakistan tried to take Kashmir by force of arms.
In yet more gestures of goodwill, Indian state entered into several accords with NC leadership apparently conceding much that it thought would give them satisfaction about the perpetuation of Kashmiri identity.
All this shows that the cry for so-called identity, self rule and autonomy is the lingering hangover of the days of past. When the Sheikh assumed power for the second time in 1975, he appointed a cabinet committee to examine where State's sway had been challenged or eroded. The Committee in its report said that out of 196 items extended to the State 194 had been extended through the channel of State Legislative Assembly and the remaining two items were of very minor nature about taxation etc. The Sheikh shelved the report.
In a televised interview given by Sayyid Ali Shah Geelani to an Indian television channel recently, he said he wanted azaadi from India and then the people would decide whether they wanted to go to India or Pakistan, since independence was not practicable. As he has risen against India, this eliminates India as an option after Kashmir is freed from Indian presence. The only option that remains is Pakistan. Let those who claim to be struggling for independence enter into a debate with Mr. Geelani. Let ordinary Kashmiri be delivered from confusion.

Separatists in Kashmir would do well to realize that Kashmir has comes under sharp focus while regional strategies are discussed and debated. The time for thinking in narrow terms like ethnicity, religion, language etc. has given place to broad regional perspectives in which major powers are playing big role. A great responsibility devolves on their shoulders. They must take each step with utmost caution and ensure that they are not pushing the community to wall.








I grew up with the explicit understanding that hard work pays. It did. But of late this assumption has betrayed me. It has proved me wrong and demolished all those premises on which I had built up my understanding of academics. 

Three notches less than a decade of teaching the under graduate and post graduate students has made me realize the fallacy. One need not study hard to attain good grades. Stated differently, there is no relationship between study and grades. One can cook up one's marks card even without attending classes! Yes, it is possible now. Making such a statement a couple of decades ago would have been preposterous, nay, a sacrilege. Not anymore. Higher education in the present times is a business, shorn of any professional ethics and discipline. It is no more the privileged preserve of the committed few. 

Significantly, the Government itself is its biggest promoter as it furthers its populist agenda in the garb of democratization of higher education. In the process, obviously, quantity has outsmarted quality. When degree colleges are as ubiquitous as primary schools, it is apparent we need to relax the student intake rules as well. A highly subsidized fees structure moreover encourages even the most reluctant and the unwilling. Consequently who so ever wishes to enter the portals of higher education is admitted irrespective of the grades he/she obtains in the qualifying examinations. A college after all needs to have minimum student strength to justify the hefty salary bills of its staff. 

By the same logic, it needs better results, which are hard to come by from those admitted on relaxed criteria; hence, jugglery of marks at different levels. End result is half baked products. It is not surprising if the grades on the final marks card do not match the knowledge a student possesses after spending three long years in an institution of higher education. The blame lays as much on populism as on academics. But who cares? Inflated marks can fetch a candidate a secure and better paid government job, where knowledge is not a necessary qualification. Numbers are. 

A much worse situation prevails at the postgraduate level. Decentralization of post graduate courses was a good political move, but certainly a bad academic act. It has given opportunities to those who otherwise could never have been able to pursue their studies after graduation. It has undoubtedly improved accessibility. But, who said postgraduate education too has to be as accessible as primary education? 

Acquiring such a degree in a town and college where one finished one's graduation obviously deprives the prospective student the extra mile of knowledge which he/she could have imbibed had he/she been in a university campus. Such students are doubly deprived. For, the teaching - learning process in a college is as mundane and spiritless as is the campus itself. It remains entangled in undergraduate mind set, both academically and administratively. 

In no college of the state has academic and administrative restructuring been made to accommodate the postgraduate studies. No separate staff recruitments, no proper infrastructure, nor an environment that may inspire the entrants. No review of their functioning either by the government which introduced these courses, or by the universities which award the degrees. 

The result is arbitrary running of the courses. Lax rules prevail. A student can remain absent from class for months together without the fear of any penalty. He /she can carry on another course or a full time job. Or, submit assignments and appear for midterm tests even after the university semester end examinations are over! University departments would never ever allow such gross indiscipline to flourish. But colleges are a different breed altogether.

That is why postgraduate courses in colleges are such a great hit. Imagine a record 173 applications for 21 seats in geography this year. Academic sorcery responded by adding another 12 seats including 7 on payment. Fabulous! Hail the voodoo rules!!

Do we ever ponder as to the long term repercussions of such acts of academic populism that betray the sense of professional ethics? Unlike a graduate, a postgraduate gets the certificate to teach the undergraduates. Why? They are teaching even the postgraduates! One can well imagine the fate of higher education and society at large as such products initiate a vicious cycle of reproduction.

As populist politics joins hands with business and decides the fate of higher education, hard work is the obvious casualty, which anyway has little relevance in the present milieu. Little wonder, mediocrity has carved out a safe and stable niche in the intellectually almost barren landscape of academics in these campuses.









DENGUE and viral fever have struck in a big way in Punjab in general and Jalandhar in particular. Such was the rush in Jalandhar that local hospitals had to arrange for additional beds and the government had to post more doctors there. Of the 400 confirmed dengue cases reported in Punjab Jalandhar alone accounts for 212. Once the spread of the diseases is contained, health experts should study why Jalandhar was particularly hit though the level of health care and sanitation and the quality of sewerage there may not be worse than that in other cities of Punjab.


It is no relief to learn that dengue is not a local disease. It is spread by the Aedes mosquito. Originating in ancient China, it spread to other parts of Asia, Africa and North America. It was after the 1980s that the disease turned endemic and on an average 40 million cases are reported every year worldwide. The fact that some of the worst outbreaks have been reported from a neat and clean Singapore should not give the local health authorities a reason to lose hope or feel less concerned or helpless.


There was quite a scare as dengue cases surfaced in Delhi ahead of the Commonwealth Games. Some countries issued travel advisories. Dengue gave an additional reason to quite a few sports persons, already worried about the reported poor arrangements for the Games, to cancel their trip to Delhi. This should make the Central and state authorities sit up and plan a mass campaign during the monsoon every year to counter dengue and other diseases. Malaria claims the lives of at least 10 lakh people every year in India. Our heath priorities are biased in favour of diseases of the urban elite. While the budgetary allocations for health at the Central and state levels are far from adequate, community diseases in particular do not get sufficient funds and attention of specialists. 








THE appointment of Central Information Commissioner A.N. Tiwari as the Chief Information Commissioner at the Centre after the five-year term of Mr Wajahat Habibullah is questionable. Mr Tiwari, a retired Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Personnel and Training, has only three months to retire since he would be completing his five-year tenure in the commission on December 26, 2010. Considering that there is no dearth of talent in the country, this seemingly stopgap arrangement for the top post, that too, with a retired bureaucrat, is inexplicable. The Centre and the states would do well to stop appointing retired civil servants as information commissioners. The Right to Information (RTI) Act will lose its significance and utility for common citizens if these commissions are treated as parking lots and lucrative post-retirement hubs for bureaucrats.


There are complaints that these commissioners not only take a lot of time to hear the appeals but also subvert the very concept of the RTI under the influence of their former colleagues. Unfortunately, despite appeals by RTI activists and noted social workers such as Ms Aruna Roy and Mr Arvind Kejriwal, the governments of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have recently chosen retired Chief Secretaries — Mr K.S. Sripathi and Mr Jannat Hussein — as Chief Information Commissioners of the respective states. Moreover, eyebrows have been raised on Ms Omita Paul's re-appointment as Adviser to the Union Finance Minister barely a month after she served as the Central Information Commissioner.


Section 15 (5) of the RTI Act enables the Centre and the states to select persons of eminence in public life as information commissioners with wide knowledge and experience in law, journalism, social service, education, management and science and technology. Consequently, why should the governments select retired bureaucrats alone? It is time to review the method and selection procedure of information commissioners. The Centre and the states need to evolve a clear eligibility criteria and make the whole process foolproof and transparent.









THE announcement that democracy icon Anug San Suu Kyi will be released next month is only a clever move by the ruling junta in Myanmar to deflect attention away from the sham poll that they will hold on November 7 to give a civilian façade to their blatant military rule. The Nobel Laureate is to be released only on November 13, a week after the election. The excuse is that her current term of house arrest expires only on that day. The bitter truth is that this is an unfortunate attempt to keep her and her party away from the election process. Her National League for Democracy (NLD) and nine other parties have been barred from the election, and as UN chief Ban Ki-moon has said categorically, the looming elections will not be credible without her participation.


Suu Kyi has spent more than 15 of the past 20 years under house arrest. It is remarkable that despite their best efforts, the ruling generals have not been able to break her resolve. They have ruled since 1988. The last time they held an election was in 1990 when the NLD won hands down. But Suu Kyi was jailed and her party was blocked from power.


Even now, the junta has adopted new laws which have been framed specifically to keep her and her party out of the electoral process. The draconian laws bar people currently serving prison terms from being party members. It was just a pretext to make the NLD drop its leader. But the party has stood firmly behind her and has since been decertified as a political unit, although it still exists as an organisation. The junta has won over some members of the NLD to its side but their participation would not fool anybody. Sooner or later, the junta, which has a horrifying human rights record, will have to free Suu Kyi and restore democracy. The sooner they do so, the better. They have pushed Myanmar back by centuries

















THE long-awaited verdict of the Allahabad High Court's Lucknow Bench in the four Ayodhya suits has evoked mixed reactions, but everyone has heaved a sigh of relief that no untoward incident happened notwithstanding the acute disappointment felt by many irrespective of the community one belongs to.


The disputed structure was erected in 1528 A.D. by Mir Baqi as directed by Emperor Babar. Many Hindus believe that this site is the birthplace of Shri Ram and that there was a temple earlier. Belief and fact are different. In 1885, it came to light that a portion of the compound of the masjid was occupied by Hindu structures — namely, Ram Chabutra and Kaushalya Rasoi. In 1934, the disputed structure suffered some damage during communal riots but it was repaired. In 1944, the structure and its appurtenant land were notified as a Sunni Muslim Wakf property. The notification was challenged in a court.


In 1975-80 the Archaeological Survey of India undertook excavations. The findings led to conflicting interpretations. On the night of December 22 and 23, 1949, Hindu idols were brought from the outer courtyard of the structure and placed under the central dome of the main structure. From the next morning, worship started. For maintaining law and order, the premises were attached under Section 145 Cr. P. C. In 1950, title suits were filed by two Hindus. One suit was withdrawn subsequently. The civil court granted injunction to allow puja and not to remove the idols which continued to remain there. In 1959, another title suit was filed by the Nirmohi Akhara, asserting its right to manage what it called the temple.


In 1961, the Sunni Central Wakf Board filed a suit for the declaration of the title and delivery of possession. On February 1, 1986, the District Judge ordered opening of locks to allow puja by devotees. In 1989, D.N. Agarwal filed a suit on behalf of Deity Bhagwan Shri Ram Virajman. All the suits were transferred to the High Court for trial. The court directed the status quo to be maintained.


In 1990, L.K. Advani organised a rath yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya mobilising Hindus in a big way. Riots took place in many places. Some persons hoisted saffron flags on the domes of the mosque after causing damage to the domes and the compound wall. In June 1991, the BJP won the elections and formed its government in UP led by Kalyan Singh. In October 1991, the state government notified acquisition of the land. The High Court prohibited permanent construction.


On November 2, 1991, Kalyan Singh gave a solemn assurance to the National Integration Council (NIC) that the state government would take full responsibility for the protection of the disputed structures and would ensure that the orders of the court were not violated. PILs (public interest litigation) were filed in the Supreme Court challenging the acquisition of the land. In its order dated November 15, 1991, the court treated the assurance given to the NIC as a representation made to the court as well and ordered that the State of UP shall remain bound by it. On December 6, 1992, the BJP government in flagrant breach of its undertaking, facilitated the demolition of the disputed structure by kar sewaks in broad daylight in the presence of the police and leaders of the BJP, the VHP, etc. Kalyan Singh did not allow Central forces to step in. He later resigned as Chief Minister.


In October 1994, the Supreme Court condemned his conduct and punished him for contempt, observing that the issues raised affected the very foundation of the secular fabric of our nation. President's rule was imposed in the BJP-ruled states of UP, MP, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh. The Supreme Court upheld it.


The demolition of the Babri Masjid was a severe blow to communal harmony and the trust reposed by Muslims. There were widespread riots. In Mumbai, the Justice Srikrishna Commission found Shiv Sena leaders guilty. Muslims all over the world were upset. India became the main target of cross-border terrorism. If only the then Prime Minister had acted swiftly by dismissing the BJP government and imposing President's rule in time, the country would have been spared of all the trauma and agony. In the pending cases, attitudes hardened, ruling out settlement.


Now the verdict has come dismissing out of the four suits, three filed respectively by Gopal Singh Visharad, a devotee, the Nirmohi Akhara and the Sunni Central Board of Wakfs, but decreeing the suit of the Deity for restraining the defendants not to interfere in the construction of temple on the site where the deities are. Notwithstanding the dismissal of the suits filed by the Nirmohi Akhara and the Sunni Wakf Board strangely, the court declared that Muslims, Hindus and the Nirmohi Akhara are the joint title holders of the property in dispute to the extent of one-third share each for using and managing the same for worshipping. It is difficult to understand how and why the Nirmohi Akhara was not treated as part of the Hindus.


The court further directed that the portion below the central dome where the idols are kept will go to the Hindus, and the Nirmohi Akhara will be allotted land including Ram Chabutra and Sita Rasoi and, if minor adjustments are required, the land acquired by the Central Government could be allotted. The status quo is directed to be maintained for three months.


It appears that no documentary evidence of ownership was adduced by any plaintiff. There was no endowment of land in favour of the Deity. When a structure is built by the rulers, the presumption is that the land belongs to the state. On the one hand, the High Court rejected the claims of the Nirmohi Akhara and the Sunni Wakf Board and on the other declared them as joint title holders, each entitled to one-third share. One can understand the allotment of shares in a suit for partition of family properties, but not in independent title suits claiming exclusive rights. No party pleaded, argued or prayed for partition.


In Antulay's case, it was held that any direction given without pleadings, issues, arguments and prayer is void. The High Court's verdict is questionable. Its effect is to legalise an illegality and reward the trespassers who stealthily installed idols at the dead of night under the central dome with a declaration of title to that very land and treat them on a par with Muslims, whose mosque existed at the site for over 460 years.


Though innovative, the judgment cannot stand legal scrutiny. Even on the grounds of equity, is it fair to give two-thirds of land to the Hindus and only one-third to the Muslims?


This is not the first time that the Supreme Court would be dealing with the dispute. In November 1991, the judges who allowed bhajan by lakhs of kar sewaks were not shrewd enough to see through the game of Chief Minister Kalyan Singh and his party. They could have prevented the demolition by directing the Central Government to deploy its forces in Ayodhya and protect the monument.


In 1994, the Supreme Court upheld the Acquisition of Certain Areas at Ayodhya Act, 1993, but returned the Presidential Reference unanswered on the question: whether a Hindu temple existed prior to the construction of the Babri Masjid. Now the court will have to answer it unless the dispute is resolved by mutual settlement or through mediation or arbitration. To quote Dr Ambedkar, "Minorities are an explosive force which, if it erupts, can blow up the whole fabric of the State." The Muslims should get their due in all fairness.


The writer is Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India.







MY husband and I attended a dear Indian friend's wedding to an American-Indian girl recently. It was a classy affair with a desi twist. The Moet et Chandon champagne paired perfectly well with the samosa chaat. The bride went down the aisle to the 'mandap' inside a colorful 'paalki'. Witty speeches spilled the beans about the groom's interesting past, followed by teary toasts on the bride's side.


In typical American precision, the event was planned down to the minute, as noted in the detailed programme guide – "2:30 PM the horse starts trotting, 2:55 PM horse stops trotting". Elegant white-gloved dinner service was only complemented by the rowdy mob around the ras malai buffet. All in all, a perfect blend of desi meets American.


When I first came to the US about six years ago for graduate school, my notions of the Indian Diaspora were associated with cultural alienation, homesickness and perpetual longing for Indian food. I also perceived among certain older Indians, a sense of denial of American culture, as exemplified in movies such as Bend it like Beckham. Being the only Indian student in my class, I was determined to break that hapless mould and blend in.


Ironically, six years later, I now feel more Indian than ever before and appreciate a more pluralistic definition of Indian-ness. I have been invited to Garba parties by my Gujarati friends, attended Durga Pooja in New Jersey and learned about esoteric festivals such as Ratha yatra in Nashville.


I also have gotten to know a somewhat Naipaulian collection of first and second generation  Diaspora Indians in the US, such as, my husband's Bangladeshi-Indian classmate whose family is now settled in the UK, my Indian-Nepalese grad school roommate who grew up in Botswana and our neighbour of Indian-Pakistani origin brought up in Kenya. The list only gets more and more exotic. As was proudly pointed out in one of the wedding speeches, there were Indians from every single continent at our friend's wedding.


As the wedding's signature drink, mango martini, flowed freely, live sitar and shehnai music turned into throaty bhangra and catchy American pop songs. At that point, everyone hit the dance floor and I realised that my initial perception about the Indian community in the US couldn't be far from reality – words like 'expatriates' and   'exiles' with their undertones of disconnect sound outdated.  Instead, a new, integrated sub-culture has emerged, one that that is neither apologetic for not being Indian enough nor is trying too hard to blend in.


While nothing can ever replace the flavours of home, I have come to identify well with this new sub-culture. Time magazine's Joel Stein may disagree but this is my own private India.









WHEN I asked Professor Noam Chomsky about the recent event of being questioned for three hours at the Israeli border and being denied entry to the West Bank, he wrote back: "The media reaction was mostly grotesque, apart from a few, some of them personal friends like Amira Hass (who was delighted, because it exposed some of what's happening in the society). There was a public statement by many academics criticizing the decision. It's just another small indication of the growing paranoia, hysteria, and irrationality of the society, which definitely is a danger — to itself and others."


This was indeed a blatant attempt to end freedom of expression and movement in the Middle East. Coming close on the heels of this insane fascist denial of entry was the unprovoked Israeli assault on the Turkish-owned flotilla Mavi Marmami carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. Turkish autopsy reports show that nine of the dead were shot up to 30 times at point blank range amounting to piracy, armed aggression and abduction of foreign nationals. This tragedy undoubtedly hindered the efforts of President Obama and George Mitchell, US envoy to the Middle East, in bringing Israel and Palestine to the table. Paradoxically, the US stands for giving humanitarian aid to Gaza and yet does not desire to take any steps jeopardizing Israeli security. This is indeed a double-faced stance.


However, last week, the latest peace initiative of President Obama brought hope for a 'historic compromise' in the Middle East. 'Too much blood has already been shed, too many hearts have already been broken', said Mr. Obama. 'This moment of opportunity may not return soon again.' But the killing of four Israeli settlers on the West Bank on the eve of the negotiations cast its shadow on any optimism that world leaders might harbour. Peace in the Middle East is evasive and seeing the delicate issues, its seems the leaders have agreed to participate in the talks only to keep Washington pleased.


However, both protagonists, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, seemingly expressed desire to push hard in making sincere efforts for a lasting peace though the outcome would depend on ensuring Israeli security and freezing Israeli settlements in the West bank. Nevertheless, it is a positive peace initiative, especially in view of the bleak scenario in the last few years when Israel abandoned any pretence of diplomacy and instead blatantly engaged in acts of provocation.


Gradually, Israel seems to be metamorphosising from a neo-colonial bully to an agreeable collaborator in the Middle-East peace endeavour. Pressure has steadily grown on Israel on the behest of President Obama and other neighbours like Egypt and Saudi Arabia whose political future depends on his success in ending the Middle-East conflict and the occupation of Iraq. It now appears to be a possibility that Israel will remain no longer unmindful of international condemnation and realise that its political stance coheres with its tactical interests in the region. Perhaps the recent tragedy may have moved Israel to introspect on its rather isolated position in the Muslim world.


Let's face it. How long can the world tolerate the siege of Gaza, a glaring blemish on contemporary history? The end result of the blockade is a stronger Hamas, the people of Gaza are far from being starved and weapons are still being smuggled into Gaza via Egypt. Then to what purpose is the blockade useful? The only gain is wide-reaching antagonism.


The international community along with Israel's ally, the US, are now trying to counter the Israeli infringement of international law and peace. Netanyahu and Obama are slowly digging themselves out of the quagmire of the never-ending problem of the Middle East. Recent months have seen the shifting balance of power in the Middle East. President Mubarak of Egypt seems at the moment to be the most assiduous and mature supporter of Israel and this could be a strategic move of using an important neighbour to facilitate the talks. Jordan too is vital as in redrawing the map of Palestine. Its a stakeholder and has used financial pressure tactics for persuading Abbas to come to the table.


There is also the serious issue of the recent move by Israel to build a Jewish suburb in occupied East Jerusalem. The present peace initiative must take into consideration this rather volatile issue which has the potential of jeopardising any meaningful solution.


Within America, the role of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in slowing the peace process needs to be countered. The Democrats in the US are divided in their support of the Israeli cause unlike the Republicans whose support for an Israeli independent state is literally an act of faith. At this juncture President Obama comes across as a serious exponent of peace ready to nudge Israel to go easy on Palestine. But the President has to overcome the rather fragile pressure Washington has put on Israel to end the gradual colonization of West bank, a sore thumb in any drive towards peace. As Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, put it: 'So long as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fails to break with settler leaders, including his own foreign minister, and the U.S. vacillates on this issue, a just peace is far away.'


I see only hope in a collective future. The possibilities of a peaceful resolution on the subject of Gaza and the occupation of West Bank can no longer be hindered as it has been regrettably by Washington and Tel Aviv. Hope lies simply in an Israel-Palestine two-state solution in this rather long and never-ending history of death and suffering.


What will be the contours of such a solution especially in the case of redrawing the map of the Jewish and Palestinian states? If settlement activity is resumed in the West Bank, will there be a danger of the talks getting derailed especially when the Israeli religious right is now a strong lobby and stands against any freeze of the settlements? How is it possible to convince Israel that the settlements in the West Bank go against international law? Haven't the basic opinion of bringing to an end the colonization and scramble for 'hilltops' in the West Bank been accepted worldwide? And more than anything is Washington ready to accept this? These will be some crucial questions that the two leaders of Israel and Palestine will have to dwell on to end the Middle-East crisis. 








LEADERS of the main moderate Palestinian factions yesterday voted to oppose further negotiations while building continues in Jewish settlements, amid increasing US frustration at Israel's refusal to prolong a 10-month moratorium on construction.


The Palestinian Liberation Organisation executive decided that any resumption of direct peace talks – the first for 21 months – "requires tangible steps, the first of them a freeze on settlements". A senior PLO official, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said after yesterday's meeting in Ramallah: "The Palestinian leadership holds Israel responsible for obstructing the negotiations."


Although not unexpected, the move by the PLO underlines the depth of the crisis over the future of the talks after repeated efforts by the US, and the international Middle East envoy Tony Blair, to persuade the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to prolong the partial freeze on settlements instituted late last year.


While the PLO is the over-arching body representing the main Palestinian factions, apart from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the final response to Mr Netanyahu's refusal to extend the freeze is likely to await a meeting of the Arab League. That meeting is currently scheduled for Wednesday, though there is increasing speculation that it will be postponed for another 48 hours, to Friday, to allow US mediators more time for the uphill struggle to promote an 11th-hour compromise to save the talks.


Diplomats report increased annoyance in Washington over Mr Netanyahu's rejection of a draft letter drawn up by the State Department and a senior Israeli official promising – in return for a 60-day extension of the moratorium – massive military aid, a veto on any UN Security Council resolution criticising Israel over the next year, and support for a continued Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley after the launch of a Palestinian state. The draft also reportedly contained a pledge not to ask for a further extension after the 60-day period ran out.


US presidential envoy George Mitchell and EU High Representative Cathy Ashton both visited the region last week in a vain effort to break the impasse.


Meanwhile, Mr Netanyahu has been pinning the blame for deadlock on the Palestinians, saying that the partial freeze had been ordered 10 months ago, but that Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, only agreed to direct negotiations starting last month. "Now I expect the Palestinians to show some flexibility. Everyone knows that measured and restrained building in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) in the coming year will have no influence on the peace map."


Mr Netanyahu repeatedly says that he is prepared for talks "without preconditions". But Mr Abbas and his negotiating team point out that they are asking for no more than did the 2003 internationally agreed Road Map, which called for a complete halt to settlement activity – which most of the international community regards as illegal under international law – and the withdrawal of settlement outposts illegal even under Israeli law.


But without an immediate end to the impasse in sight, yesterday's PLO decision was endorsed publicly by Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Mr Abbas, who told reporters after the executive meeting: "There will be no negotiations in the shadow of continued settlement."


The PLO executive is dominated by Mr Abbas's faction, but also includes a number of independents and smaller factions who have been vociferous in opposing a resumption of direct negotiations without a halt to building in the West Bank settlements. Failing a breakthrough, Mr Abbas has already been reported to be planning "a historic announcement" at the Arab League meeting. There is unconfirmed speculation that this could be a formal request to the 22-member league to ask the UN Security Council to condemn Israel's settlement policy, or that it could be an imminent agreement with Hamas on inter-faction reconciliation, or both.


The first would cause a considerable headache for Washington, which would have to decide whether to veto such a resolution, while the second carries the risk that it could provide Israel with a ready-made reason - or excuse – for abandoning efforts to continue the talks.


— The Independent 










How do you begin to describe the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games? Do you fall back on clichés about a confluence of sound and colour? Do you express a sense of disbelief that it went smoothly despite everything, "like an Indian wedding"? Do you wonder what the fuss was all about over the last few weeks? Or do you stress that, no matter how good the present, the sins of the past must not be forgotten in a haze of nationalistic fervour? 


We are, of course, only at the start of the CWG fortnight. A lot has happened in the past – scams have been unearthed, bridges have fallen, imprudent statements have been made about varying standards of cleanliness – that will hopefully not happen again. But assuming all goes well, high on a rich haul of medals by our athletes, India will have to answer one key question: Is blatant corruption and gross inefficiency okay as long as there is no collective public embarrassment in the end? 


On Sunday night, as the drums started to beat, as the controversial 40-crore aerostat rose up towards the sky, and as contingents from the participating countries started marching into the sprucedup Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, it was very easy to look ahead rather than behind. Half out of surprise, half out of sheer relief, cynics – as one newspaper wrote – turned supporters and fence-sitters turned patriots. By the time the evening was over, the only semblance of protest – jeers when Suresh Kalmadi stepped forward – seemed feeble and nugatory. 


The picture is suddenly rosy. But what we learnt in the run-up to these Games about how sport is run in our country was no fallacy. Nor is all of it another overreaction by news television to the top-story-worthy problem of the day. Allowed to flourish by a nation that temporarily wakes up to sports other than cricket three times in two years – during the Commonwealth, Asian and Olympic Games – for too long the administrators have done exactly as they pleased. 


For example, despite widespread corruption in Indian cricket, the Board has had to put systems in place – age-group tournaments, local talent scouting, stadiums – because the weight of expectations doesn't let them rest too easily. The BCCI knows its smooth functioning eventually depends on how well the Indian team are performing. If they stop winning, fans will get angry, uncomfortable questions will be asked, and the money will slowly stop flowing. 


The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and its various affiliated federations have never had any such pressure. Since no one ever expected anything from them, the officials have enjoyed the good life - clout, government grants no one wants bills for, foreign trips - with no accountability. 


During the run up to these Games, when their wrongdoing and mismanagement started slowly coming to the fore before erupting about a month to go, it was the first time that these officials had ever been in the firing line. Their contribution to the event was questioned, and as a consequence so was their role in Indian sport over the last several decades. 

That these administrators have finally been exposed is an advantage India should not lose, even if the Games eventually go off without too many hitches. This is an opportunity to cleanse the system of corrupt officials who manage to survive because no one is looking. If we turn the other way now, who knows when the next chance will come. 


It's true that the CWG is not a blueriband world event because most of the sporting powerhouses are not in the Commonwealth of Nations. But neither is it an Indian wedding in the Kalmadi or Gill family. Let's enjoy the Games, but in our euphoria, not forget the people we had to rescue them from. 



******************************************************************************************BUSINESS STANDARD






For all the controversy surrounding the 19th Commonwealth Games (CWG), the opening ceremony went off without a glitch. The games have got off to a good start. Hopefully the rest of the Games will also be conducted with equal efficiency. While the opening ceremony had lots of colour, lots of sound and some good music too, and while there were some innovative ideas, like the display of yoga and the electronic man, the real clincher for the evening was the Rs 40 crore helium aerostat that added some visual excitement. It was the only innovation in a programme that stuck to a tried and tested government of India formula for official entertainment. The Games opening was a mix of a Republic Day parade, with its government-organised floats and school children acts, and a Festival of India routine of Indian classical and folk dance and music. The biggest surprise of the evening was that everything went according to plan. The biggest disappointment of the evening was A R Rahman's theme song for the CWG. Despite his best effort to improve upon the original score that was widely criticised, Mr Rahman did not click. It appeared as if he was acutely conscious of this fact given that he chose to end the evening with his tried and tested Oscar winning song, Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire.


While a good 50,000 people watched the show in New Delhi, millions of Indians and other citizens of the Commonwealth countries would have been disappointed by Doordarshan's shoddy and greedy telecast of the event. A two-and-a-half-hour live show was stretched to nearly four hours on television thanks to intermittent insertion of tediously long number of advertisements. Surely, a major international event like this could have been telecast live without interruption. Even if Doordarshan wanted to make some money, having spent so lavishly on equipment and logistics, it could have inserted the advertisements on a strip below the visual instead of interrupting the telecast and robbing the viewer of the real excitement of watching a live show. Worse, the camerawork was shoddy and so was the sound. All in all, the TV viewing of the event left much to be desired. On occasions like this, Doordarshan must remember that it is after all a public service broadcaster, and should find better ways of satisfying its greed for money.


 Events like these normally have two purposes. First, to entertain, not just the immediate audience physically present at the event but the virtual audience worldwide watching it on television; second, to awe and inspire the audience who would, in turn, speak about it to all those who may have missed it. The ripple effects of such events build a nation's brand. The CWG opening ceremony would not normally have had such a positive externality for India, save for the fact that the event was preceded by weeks of bad news. Given all the predictions of doom and declarations of despair, the very fact that everything went off well would itself be seen as a great achievement.







The country is well on the way to giving itself a fairly credible metro rail system in its large cities in a relatively short span of time. In around 15 years, that is by 2014, over 300 km of the rapid transit facility will have been constructed for a substantial Rs 75,000 crore or around 1.5 per cent of GDP. While this will do much to cater to the need for high-density commute to and from city centres, it will take the country no nearer to finding a solution to unbearable congestion on urban roads, which will get worse with every passing day. So a credible solution, which does not exist even on paper today, is desperately needed. The first step must be to create feeder services to metro rail accesses so that the heavy investment made in them is put to good use. In fact, an essential element in the solution must be an integrated multimodal transport system with a single system of ticketing so that there can be several legs to a journey. The resultant quick interchanges will save time.


But it is not possible to take metro rail to every corner of a city whose existing roads can be put to the best possible use through a metro bus system that runs on CNG/LNG and is clean and regular. It is also vitally necessary to make space for people to walk and cycle safely and briskly. This will simply recognise what a lot of poor people (their numbers will increase as rural to urban migration continues apace) in our cities are already doing at great inconvenience and risk to themselves. But buses, cycles and pavements will keep making greater demands on a critical resource, road space, whose supply is severely limited. A smart system will have to be devised to control demand that is primarily led by private cars whose numbers are burgeoning in emerging economies even as developed societies go easy on buying new cars.


 So, while a sensible public transport system is necessary and must come first (people need an alternative to invariably using their cars), a rational private transport system must follow in tandem for the entire system to deliver. In the first place, India's cities need an economically and ecologically justifiable tax on the use of cars. A smart system that treats different types of cars differently — large versus small, fuel-efficient versus inefficient, and petrol versus diesel-powered — and can distinguish between use of private vehicles in peak and non-peak hours, and in city centres, business districts, and local neighbourhoods, must be put in place. Increasingly, across the world but particularly in Europe, cars are being disallowed in city centres and major shopping areas. Even in the US, which has had a long love affair with cars, things are changing. Iconic Broadway, in New York's Manhattan, is now a virtually pedestrian and cycling zone. Singapore, which has an extremely efficient public transport system, has long made it very costly to own a private car and drive it into city centre. The world has already moved down a one-way street. India must follow suit or pay through chaos and automobile exhaust-induced ill health in its cities.








It is very well admitted that the economic crisis witnessed in the aftermath of the Lehman episode is the worst since the Great Depression of 1929. Since 2007, global output has contracted by 0.6 per cent and the decline in advanced economies has been as much as 3.2 per cent. Though the world economy has moved into a positive growth territory, thanks to large stimulus packages, fears of a double-dip recession remain. Though some countries, particularly the emerging market economies, have shown a faster revival, market sentiment in most advanced economies continues to be pessimistic.


There were considerable variations in the size as well as the composition of stimulus packages depending upon the intensity of the crisis, prevailing economic environment and the scope available for providing the stimulus. The average stimulus provided by the G20 countries in 2009 alone was $692 billion or 1.4 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP). Just three countries, the US (39 per cent), China (13 per cent) and Japan (10 per cent), contributed two-thirds of the stimulus provided by G20 countries. In general, one-third of the stimulus measures have been in tax cuts and two-thirds in expenditure increases.


 The consequence of these large stimulus packages has been to sharply increase their deficits and debt. The gross debt-to-GDP ratio of the G20 economies increased from 61.3 per cent in 2007 to 76.8 per cent in 2010. In the advanced countries, the increase was from 77.9 per cent to 104.4 per cent and in the emerging economies, it was from 32.3 per cent to 37 per cent. The average primary deficit in the advanced G20 countries in 2010 is estimated at 7 per cent of GDP and in the emerging market economies, 1.8 per cent. It is close to or more than 10 per cent in the US, the UK, Spain and Japan. These have brought to the fore the fiscal sustainability question.


Surely, most economies have shown definite signs of a turnaround and with growing concern about fiscal sustainability, governments and central banks need to work out strategies to unwind the stimulus. However, a simultaneous withdrawal of the stimulus, particularly by the advanced countries, could cause a double-dip recession and, therefore, the withdrawal has to be calibrated carefully. The countries where the revival has been faster, those with high debt-to-GDP ratios, and those with a looming threat of inflation, should initiate the process faster than the countries that are still vulnerable with private sector revival yet to take firm roots.


A coordinated stimulus withdrawal requires both internal and international rebalancing. Internal rebalancing is necessary to ensure that the withdrawal does not result in a decline in the overall demand. It is also necessary to adopt a strategy that employs a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. Credible commitment to cut expenditures is important. International rebalancing is even more daunting, for even as the developed countries start initiating their exit, others will have to fill the space and offsetting demand decline from advanced countries is most difficult. Prospects of persuading countries like China to increase their consumption to offset the US demand shortfall, for example, do not look very bright. Furthermore, increased external imbalance has persuaded many developed countries to resort to protectionist policy in one form or another, and China continues with a "mercantilist"-type exchange rate policy.


Among the emerging market economies, India is the right candidate for initiating the exit from expansionary fiscal and accommodating monetary policies. The Indian economy has revived to record an estimated 7.4 per cent growth in 2009-10 and in the current financial year, it is estimated at 8.5 per cent. Interestingly, India embarked on fiscal expansion much before the global financial crisis and this has helped the economy land softly during the crisis. The plan for large increases in public expenditures for pay revision, loan waiver and food and fertiliser subsidies was put forth in February 2008, much before the Lehman episode unfolded in September 2008. Besides, large election-related spending also resulted in a stimulus.


Exiting from the stimulus to phase out large volume of deficits and debt is, however, painful and Indian policy makers will have to evolve an exit strategy that maintains high growth with price stability. India's consolidated fiscal deficit in 2010-11 is estimated at about 8 per cent which, although lower than the 10.2 per cent recorded in the previous year, is much larger than any other emerging market economy. India's debt-to-GDP ratio is also very high at about 80 per cent and though an overwhelming proportion of this is internal, it is a cause for worry. Also, expanding expenditures on education from the present level of 3.2 per cent of GDP to 6 per cent and healthcare spend from the present level of 1.4 per cent to 3 per cent in the medium term as indicated in the National Common Minimum Programme in addition to meeting large commitments on food security will make the task of fiscal consolidation really daunting.


The exit strategy will have to take into account these ground realities and will have to proceed on the lines indicated by the fiscal consolidation path laid down by the Finance Commission. This would require that the debt-to-GDP ratio is brought down to 68 per cent by 2014-15 and fiscal deficit is compressed to about 5 per cent. This implies that it is necessary to phase out/target subsidies on the lines indicated in the Economic Survey. On the tax side, the implementation of Direct Taxes Code (DTC) may not bring in large gains in the short term and it appears both DTC and Goods and Services Tax (GST) will be implemented only from April 2012. Nevertheless, the success of the exit strategy crucially hinges on a significant increase in the buoyancy in tax revenues. It was the successful application of the Tax Information Network that helped augment tax ratio by almost 3 percentage points since 2003-04, and the success of GST implementation will crucially depend on the adoption of technology in ensuring accurate and swift credit, clearance of inter-state transactions and refunds (zero-rating of exports). Hopefully, both the Centre and states will ensure this.


The author is director, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. The views are personal. 










Robert Blackwill, former US ambassador to India and later New Delhi's lobbyist in Washington, has stirred up a heated debate with his now famous Plan B for Afghanistan. This involves effectively partitioning the country, with Pashtun-predominant southern Afghanistan ceded to the Taliban and, by proxy, to Pakistan. A US-Nato force of some 40,000 soldiers, down from 150,000 today, would confine itself to northern Afghanistan. Throwing one child to the wolf, Blackwill apparently believes, might save the other.


 Plan B, or so the argument goes, would satisfy everyone who counts: the Taliban, which would re-establish control over their homeland; Pakistan, because its proxy control over southern Afghanistan would satisfy its quest for "strategic depth"; the US, which would remain a significant power in south and central Asia without a crippling price in blood and treasure (currently 700-1000 soldiers dead and $100 billion spent each year); Nato, because of its namby-pamby preference for stationing European soldiers in non-combat or low-combat areas; and India, because of Pakistan's reduced capacity to extract US tolerance for India-directed terror.


While acknowledging that Plan B has its drawbacks — notably the abandonment of non-Pashtun groups, non-Taliban militias, and womenfolk in southern Afghanistan to the mercy of the Taliban — Blackwill points out that Plan A, i.e. the current surge of US troops, has changed little in Afghanistan. Therefore, by summer 2011, with US elections looming, Congressmen will be debating the even more disastrous Plan C: the withdrawal of all foreign troops within a couple of years.


Even as the US policy debate centres on a minimally damaging withdrawal, India's moribund strategic community remains in denial, chanting the mantra that if the US does ever pull the bulk of its forces out of Afghanistan, it will be too far in the future to worry about presently. This delusion stems from New Delhi's self-defeating apprehension that it would be left without options in a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.


This illusion of Indian helplessness, paradoxically, enjoys greater currency in India than it does abroad. While Pakistan realises how much India's influence is expanding, New Delhi focuses on the negatives: there is no Ahmed Shah Masood, around whom anti-Taliban forces can coalesce, 1990s-style, nor for that matter a coherent Northern Alliance. With the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) controlling swathes of northern and central Afghanistan, India has little opportunity for resuscitating Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara militias. And while Moscow and Teheran still share India's revulsion to a resurgent Taliban, they are less willing now to work jointly in undermining the Taliban. 2010, New Delhi concludes, is very different from 1996.


This unnecessarily gloomy Indian view of Afghanistan springs from our traditional view of influence as a function of hard power, of bayonets and boots on the ground, the more the better. In Afghanistan, however, this last decade has delivered one unmistakeable lesson: hard power is not the answer. In the alternative currency of soft power, India's nine-year-long, $1.3 billion humanitarian and development aid programme has created a powerful equity in Afghanistan.


Indian confidence in this intangible, but nevertheless real, asset must guide our strategy in Afghanistan. Our alternative to Blackwill's Plan B is Plan E — Exit Now. Counter-intuitively, India has more to gain than lose from an immediate US withdrawal.


America's pullout from Afghanistan will immediately deprive the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, Al Qaeda, and a smorgasbord of other radical groups of the glue of a common enemy. Inevitably, driven by the contradictions within their unholy alliance, they will turn their hostility upon one another. A key loser in this fratricidal game will be the traditional referee, the Pakistan Army.


As the Taliban imposes its writ across Afghanistan and Pakistan's noose tightens, resentment will start to build. In the 1990s, Taliban-imposed order seemed preferable to many Afghans than the outright anarchy and indiscriminate killing and destruction that characterised the post-Soviet "mujahideen" power struggles. The Karzai government, despite its corruption and ineffectualness, would contrast favourably with the Taliban's religious totalitarianism. As for the "foreign domination" that Afghans cite while railing against the ISAF, none of those free-spirited citizens have any illusions about the Taliban's dependence on Pakistan. The traditional Afghan resentment of Pakistan would bubble up to the surface.


A popular argument from India's strategic elite is that Afghanistan would provide a training ground for India-bound terrorists. This is outdated; today, Pakistan is the terror training academy not just for India-focused jehadis, but for a wide assortment of Islamist radicals with grievances against the US, Europe, Russia, Central Asian countries like Uzbekistan, even China. A resurrected Taliban regime could hardly offer better-located training grounds than those around Sialkot and Peshawar.


An American pullout from Afghanistan would free the US military to strike at Pakistan-harboured terrorist groups, something that Pakistan's control over logistical routes into Afghanistan prevents today. A key element of Blackwill's Plan B is the retention of US troops in northern Afghanistan for strikes into Pakistani tribal areas; paradoxically, though, America's continued logistic dependence on Pakistan would hold back effective action. This conundrum would only be resolved through a major American diplomatic breakthrough with countries (Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan) that could offer alternative supply routes or bases. For differing reasons, that seems unlikely to happen.


"The Pope", Joseph Stalin once sneered, "How many divisions does the Pope have?" But that was in a different era. Today, New Delhi would exercise influence in Afghanistan, even without a physical presence. The heavy lifting for that has already been done; it is time now to act with confidence.









The preliminary crop production estimates for the current kharif season, issued by the agriculture ministry on September 23, do not really inspire much confidence in the anticipated rebound of agriculture despite a good monsoon. Going by the estimate, the output of most crops is going to be better than the last year's drought-depressed production but, more significantly, worse than the production levels in 2007 or 2008.


 Given the extensive crop sowing, good rains, higher input use and excellent crop stand reported in most parts of the country, there is little reason for the crop size this season to be lower than it was in 2008, when the overall monsoon rainfall was 2 per cent below normal, against the 2 per cent above normal this year. For the crop sector to show any growth in real terms, the output actually needs to appreciably exceed the record kharif production in 2007. In that year, the total kharif foodgrain harvest was estimated at 120.95 million tonnes, against 114.63 million tonnes projected for the current kharif and 118.14 million tonnes in 2008.


Thus, merely exceeding last season's poor kharif foodgrain harvest of 103.84 million tonnes should not be deemed an indication of a recovery in agriculture.


Kharif output











Coarse cereals



































Source: Agriculture ministry                (Figures in million tonnes; * million bales)

True, these so-called first advance estimates of kharif production are sure to be revised. But if the correction does not reflect any advance from the 2007 level, it would truly be a matter of grave concern.


If we compare the performances of individual crops or crop groups, barring cotton, most of them have followed wavy trends. Cotton has maintained a sustained upward growth ever since the introduction of the pest-protected transgenic Bt-hybrids in 2002.


The instability in production has been most pronounced in pulses, which have perpetually been in short supply and have registered the biggest price rise in the past year or so, contributing to high food inflation. Though the pulses output forecast of 6.00 million tonnes in this kharif seems fairly encouraging, being substantially higher than 4.30 million tonnes in 2009 and 4.69 million tonnes in 2008, it still falls short of 6.40 million tonnes in 2007. In fact, this season's projected level is closer to 6.17 million tonnes of 2003.


Similarly, the oilseeds harvest has fallen chronically short of the domestic requirement, necessitating heavy imports. The combined output of nine main kharif oilseeds is foreseen at 17.27 million tonnes. Though this is more than last season's truncated oilseeds harvest of 15.66 million tonnes, it falls below 17.80 million tonnes produced in 2008 and the record 20.71 million tonnes in 2007. Sugarcane production has, in any case, been following a cyclical trend and the current year's optimistic outlook only reflects the beginning of another ascending phase.


With such a farm production situation, the country's agriculture output seems far from poised for the much-needed second green revolution. Of course, the agriculture sector as a whole will end up showing positive growth by the year-end, but much of that growth would come from the allied sectors such as livestock, fisheries and forestry, all of which are growing much faster than crops. The fact that the share of crops in agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) has shrunk from 76 per cent in 1981 to 67 per cent in 2006 bears this out.









Setting aside the merits of an individual laureate in any given year, though, a century and a bit is a good time to look back at Nobels past. The evolution of the Nobel, from a small European prize fuelled by a dynamite-maker's fortune to perhaps the world's most influential literary gong, is a remarkable story.


1900s to the 1930s: The first 30 years of the Nobel was a time of evolution, as the literature prize sought to define itself. The first prize went to Sully Prudhomme, no longer read or remembered, but famous for his poetry at the time. Over the next decade, the Swedish Academy's fondness for poets, and its occasional partiality towards Europe's writers, were both strong. Kipling was an early recipient of the Prize, and so, five years after Kipling got his gong, was Tagore. The post-World War I years were somewhat insular, and except for William Butler Yeats, Thomas Mann and G B Shaw, few Nobel laureates from that period have stood the test of time.


1930s-1950s: The 1930s saw an earnest attempt by the Swedish Academy to broaden the Prize. Alfred Nobel's will had stressed that the Nobel in Literature was for the "most outstanding work in an ideal direction"; by the 1930s, the Academy had broadened this to mean "body of work" rather than an individual book, and had decided to interpret "ideal direction" to mean works of universal popularity and interest. That accounts for the laureates of the 1930s — from Galsworthy to Pearl S Buck, Eugene O'Neill to Pirandello, Nobel Prize winners were increasingly recognisable.


The 1940s, disrupted by World War Two, saw the Academy reaching, again, for "ideal work" — but returning, with prizes bestowed on T S Eliot and William Faulkner, to the idea of literary quality and power as the driver behind the Prizes. Andre Osterling, the new secretary of the Academy, was responsible for persuading the Academy to applaud the pioneers of modern literature, from Hesse and Gide onwards. Many of the laureates of the 1940s had been discussed and rejected by a more conservative Academy in previous years. Osterling's correspondence shows his discomfort with the Academy's refusal, in the 1930s, to recognise such writers as James Joyce, and his determination not to repeat their mistakes.


1950s-1970s: Over the next two decades, the Prize looked outwards, acquiring a much broader frame of reference. With Churchill, Hemingway, Mauriac, Camus and Pasternak awarded in the same decade, the Nobel was becoming far more international than it had in the first two decades. Pasternak caused the first Nobel scandal, when Russian authorities forced him to decline his Prize — in 1964, Sartre would turn down his Nobel for loftier reasons, and in subsequent years, the Academy has carefully checked to see if authors will say aye or nay.


The 1960s and 1970s were golden years, with Solzhenitsyn, Sholokhov, Steinbeck, Kawabata, Saul Bellow and Isaac Bashevis Singer among those awarded. Few women made the cut — Nelly Sachs was the only female Laureate in all these years. And in the 1970s, the infamous Graham Greene rumour began circulating: gossip to the effect that Greene's amours with the wife of a member of the Academy cost him his gong. True or not, it was a good story.


1980s-2000: Correspondence for these years is not yet available — the Academy releases its working notes with a 50-year time lag — but it is clear that the Prize was more aware of its powers. The Nobel now had the ability to make or break writers, and Garcia Marquez, William Golding and Wole Soyinka balanced then-unknown writers such as Elias Canetti and Claude Simon.


The 1990s was the decade of the poets, with awards going to four stalwarts — Octavio Paz, Derek Walcott, Seamus Heaney and Wislawa Szymborska, making three of them world-famous rather than local heroes. It was also, very much so, the decade of gender equality, as the Nobel recognised Nadine Gordimer, Toni Morrison and Szymborska — three women in one decade. This would be matched in the 2000s, with the Nobel going to Elfriede Jelinek, Herta Mueller and Doris Lessing, but it may be argued that the 1990s had the superior list.


2000-2010: The 2000s have alternated between the obscure — Jelinek, Le Clezio — and the safe anointing of the already famous — V S Naipaul, Orhan Pamuk, J M Coetzee. The 2000s, going by the list of laureates, reflects the back-and-forth as the Nobel goes to a worthy but obscure European writer, then to a better-known "world literature" figure. Perhaps the greatest challenge the Swedish Academy faces is the challenge of growing out of its Eurocentrism and opening its doors to the whole world of literature. 







INDIA'S urban investment is woefully small in relation to global standards and what is required to meet the gaping deficit in roads, water supply, sewerage and sanitation, housing, solid waste management, etc. While shortages are not exactly breaking news in India, what former urban development secretary M Ramachandran brought out on this page last Saturday is their shocking extent, in relation to India's towns. Rajesh Shukla's article on Monday adds the perspective that some of India's towns are statistical constructs, arising from a rise in population, so that paucity of urban facilities is a given. It is vital to appreciate that India's dazzling growth comes from its towns: modern services and manufacturing cannot take place in rustic isolation. If the towns do not grow in number and quality, India's world-beating growth would sputter. While we have made a beginning with the urban renewal mission, it offers a few billion dollars, while the investment required is a hundred-fold.


Nor is it possible for the Centre to cough up this kind of money from its own coffers. We need to move to a new way of building towns. Urban local bodies, state governments and the private sector should be able to pool their resources. Policy should identify zones across the landscape for conversion of farmland to towns, and create institutional arrangements for farmers to remain stakeholders in the towns that come up on the land they used to till and reap the gains. Private investment — Indian, foreign, debt and equity — should be encouraged, not restricted, to flow into building towns and town infrastructure. Town planning, regulation and administration must innovate to pre-empt commutes, optimise public transport, enforce green building codes, incentivise housing for all income groups, ensure parks and playgrounds and institute participative urban governance. 


This calls for major overhaul of policy, not just another central scheme. The National Development Council could meet, for instance, with just this on the agenda: how to build new towns half as decent the ones we had at Mohenjodaro and Harappa.







THE insurance regulator's proposal to allow consumers to migrate from one health insurer to another is welcome. Portability of health covers will give consumers more choice, increase competition, lower tariffs and improve service standards. Of course, portability makes sense only if the list of diseases that are eligible for cover remain unchanged. If a health policy covers pre-existing ailments only after four years and a consumer decides to shift to another insurer in the fourth year, she should not have to wait for four more years for pre-existing diseases to be covered. Further, policyholders should also carry forward bonuses that have accrued for claim-free years. Migration will work well when a consumer does not lose existing benefits. This is only logical. Today, insurers sell many health insurance plans, unlike in the past when only a standard medicliam was sold to policyholders. Consumers will be keen on swapping plans to get comparable, yet better products, at affordable premiums. However, portability in health plans is a concern for insurers underwriting the business. A consumer who switches from one health service provider to another also brings in liabilities such as history of chronic ailments or frequent claim experience. Insurers can be selective in accepting customers who want to migrate to curb underwriting losses. They could deny migration benefits to the elderly or those with a history of chronic ailments. The Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (Irda) should have safeguards to prevent such practices. Building a database on claim history is also a must. Issues such as data migration and interpretation of existing policy wordings have to be addressed before portability in health insurance is implemented. 


 Innovative models are also needed to tackle rising health costs. A health savings account, where a policy holder accumulates premium payments, makes sense. Insurers can operate and manage these accounts. In tandem, the healthcare sector should lower the costs of medical care and make quality healthcare affordable and accessible, leveraging India's huge volumes.








INDIANS heading for Britain next summer should keep their ears peeled when shopping, dining or even simply walking about, as they could be in for a windfall. If the Equality Act formulated by the previous Labour government is implemented soon, not only will it spell the end of the office joke as some apprehend, it could prove lucrative for canny Indians as it allows people to sue for even perceived offences. Ostensibly meant to make the workplace more politically correct by giving employees the option to sue if they find direct or oblique comments intimidating, humiliating or degrading, the law can easily have wider applications, promising a windfall for anyone with a keen ear and a handy lawyer. Under that 'third party harassment' clause, if Indians hear something pejorative about, say, curry being bandied about by snooty waiters at a Michelin starred restaurant, they could then, theoretically, go to court demanding damages! Employers would naturally try to curtail office and workplace banter to prevent a rash of suits in tribunals, taking commerce, business and industry back to the grim days of Victorian censoriousness. 


Moreover, not only will the law prevent employers from even asking about the health of prospective employees, if an unsuccessful candidate feels the reason for not making the grade is prejudice against his background, there would be grounds for legal recourse. Arguably, that could also be used by Indian jobseekers disadvantaged by rules preferring EU nationals: they could always contend that it's not their nationality that diddled them out of a job but prejudice against their gastronomic and sartorial preferences. India can obviously do nothing to prevent Britain from hurtling towards fatal political correctness, so Indians on holiday — and Brit-Indians in situ — might as well take full advantage of it!






INDIA, advised prudently by Dot Econ, one of the world's foremost auction theorists, conducted one of the most successful global auctions of spectrum which got the treasury $15 billion recently. One of the questions that begs an answer is that if we can auction one kind of a limited national resource aka spectrum, why not another, namely roads? If yes, how should such an auction be designed and what objectives should it seek to achieve? 


India needs world-class highways and needs them quickly. China has built 55,000 miles of highways in roughly half the time, about 11 years, that the US took to build its own similar network, whereas India can barely boast of about 12,000 km of world-class highways even 10 years after the start of the National Highways Development Programme (NHDP). 


Private participation in highways is essential for three primary reasons. First, to bring in capital, which the government is quite significantly short of. Second, to bring in execution excellence by completing roads on time and within budget, which the government does not do very well. Third, to bring world-class quality in highway design and construction. 


The puzzle is how to align the incentives of the developer to achieve these three objectives. Developers in practice usually get into the bid at any cost, thereafter goldplate the costs and overinvoice to pull out about 15-20% upfront to recover their equity, then buy land around the proposed exits to be able to get windfall gains and finally renegotiate to get even further substantial gains, all at the expense of the taxpayer. They also sometimes indulge in quality shading so as to be able to cut costs and increase the project IRR (internal rate of return). In India, there is a permanent expectation on part of the concessionaire and the concensionee to renegotiate to give and take huge bribes at every step and thus the bids happen at unrealistic, artificially low tolls. 


Thus, the taxpayer gets expensive, poor or uneven quality roads, and with fixedterm concessions where either the toll or the concession period is fixed, the gains from privatisation are easily squandered by opportunism and renegotiation. Most private infrastructure concession contracts are renegotiated. Thus, the auction design has to be such that it prevents opportunism and renegotiation. 


The often-adapted solution is one what is called a Demsetz auction where firms compete for the field rather than competing in the field through a process that mimics competition. In other words, a government which wants to purchase a service or an asset such as a good quality road, they will bid and award it to the lowest bidder, which is the classic Demsetz auction or competing 'for' the field. The other option is to award it to two agents and then allow them to compete 'in' the field'. However, what this article proposes is a third method, which is in some ways a variant of this classical method. 


The government is said to be contemplating a system based on a new index like the IRR and doing away with the annuity model altogether. While the latter would be welcome, for the fiscal burden it imposes on the government is also a 'cost' to be added to that of the highways itself, the former is subject to debate. It should frankly not be the government's concern what IRR a developer gets. The concept of a cut-off IRR after which a project is considered unviable doesn't take care of the key issues that hold up highways from coming up mentioned above. Instead of making developers compete with one another in bringing down the IRR that gets actually selected, they should be made to bid on the basis of a present value of revenue (PVR) method based on the present value each bidder expects to earn from the project and this would minimise, if not eliminate, opportunistic renegotiation of the contract. How it happens is as follows. 


THEauthority would simply set a maximum toll and specify quality standards and monitoring specifications for toll equipment, not done at all today. For instance, there are electronic logs available that show road availability and actual number of vehicles plying at any point in time in almost every new toll road in the world. Thus, if a road is down for maintenance or if there's accident on a road, the cameras time stamp it and stream it to logs which capture the downtime based on which penalty is imposed on the operator. 


In response to the pre-announced toll schedule information instead of bidding on a toll as is usually the case, bidders will announce the present value of tolls for each package. The concession would be won by the firm bidding for the least present value of toll revenue (and not the least IRR). What sets apart the PVR method is that the concession will come to an end when the present value of toll revenue is reached and more importantly, each firm's bid reveals the revenue required to earn what can be called a 'normal profit' and thus reduces post-contract negotiations. Under the PVR method, while the concessionaire will still bearing the risk, he will not have the incentive to renegotiate windfall gains at the expense of the taxpayer nor would he make losses, considering the long-run demand. 


We would typically expect the least PVR chosen to be below the reserve IRR (can be 18% and 21% as per Chaturvedi Committee's report), just as in the 3G auctions, the price for bandwidth was sold was substantially about the reserve price fixed by the government. What is also important is the discount rate used to calculate PVR, which should ideally be as close to the weighted average cost of capital and should be specified in the bid document itself. Lastly, the concession period can be readjusted based on measured actual demand, allowing flexibility to the government to adapt to poor or good traffic. 


The global experience in highway concessions reveals clearly that a fixed contract based on either a fixed toll or duration has only led to renegotiation where often the best-connected firm, and not the best firm, wins and opportunism is rampant at a huge cost to the taxpayer. Evidence from the UK and China reveals that when developers compete for the field instead of competing in the field, then it mimics competition in a natural monopoly and aligns developers interest with that of the citizens and more importantly, reduces the onus on the government to be vigilant which it often is unable to perform diligently, either by accident or by design. 


(The author is an IAS officer.     Views are personal.)









THE personal can sometimes come into conflict with the political. Take AICC media cell chief Janardan Dwivedi. Soon after the Ayodhya court ruling, Dwivedi had said that "everybody should welcome" the ruling. Urging people and political parties to maintain calm, Dwivedi then recited from the Ramayana to remind everyone that Lord Ram had shown no excitement at the time of his coronation nor any dismay when he was exiled. But unlike him, the top party brass was working hard to position the centrist Congress delicately between the post-order sentiments of the majority and minority communities. By evening, the PMO issued a statement saying the order was, in effect, for the status quo and that there were three months for an appeal in the apex court. Many Congress leaders started advocating the need to explore a post-judgement negotiated settlement, too. While some partymen felt Dwivedi jumped the gun, others felt he might have been a bit carried way, given the fact that he hails fromChitrakoot, the mythological abode of Lord Ram during exile. 



FTER Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi burnt his lawyer's fingers in the Sikkim & Bhutan lottery case, the conduct of the 'politicians-cum-lawyers' has come under the scanner. This influential species has been thriving in both the Congress and BJP through its self-drawn working code that allows the elasticity to take up even politically incorrect cases in their 'individual/professional capacity'. As Singhvi was forced out by the Kerala Congress, many in the AICC are now reading out from the party constitution and the Congress ethics committee report which says that every party member is mandated to tune his/her individual conduct in accordance with the stated principles/ positions of the party. Last heard, some party lawyers were dusting off these documents. 



A DIFFERENT kind of tension is brewing in the BJP after the Ayodhya verdict. The emergence of party general secretary Ravi Shankar Prasad as the "victorious lawyer of Ram Lalla" has stirred the BJP-wallahs positioning themselves for the post of the top saffron legal eagle. So far, this was a sort of undisputed slot for Arun Jaitley whose most high-profile legal chase was launched as the additional solicitor general during the V P Singh regime in the Bofors case — which climaxed when the money-hunt against Rajiv Gandhi collapsed in the Delhi High Court right under the nose of the NDA regime. Now, Prasad's well-wishers argue that as Ram Lalla's lawyer, his otherwise average in-house stature was set for a big leap forward in the Sangh Parivar. But pragmatic saffronites say this race is still wide open as Ram Jethmalani is right in the middle of defending many Gujarat cases that are sort of do-or-die battles for the parivar's hriday samrat, Narendra Modi. Just sit back and enjoy all the spin and counter-spin. 



FOR all these years, Kerala Congress strongman Oommen Chandy remained a strict homeground player. Unlike most of the Congress leaders from states, Chandy never bothered to network with the AICC players to build the right Delhi backing. He seemed, instead, to place all his faith in his unquestionable reach among partymen. But sensing a sort of pre-poll gang-up among many state Congress leaders to deny him another shot at the chief minister's post, Chandy has now started visiting Delhi regularly to familiarise himself with the right party addresses in the capital. Now that's taking guard in right earnest.







THE atmosphere is a strategic resource needed to establish the infrastructure necessary for eradication of poverty and climate change cannot be considered only in terms of environmental damage. 


Climate change is a difficult subject for multilateral cooperation because of the limitations in developing a shared assessment of a challenge posed by competition for scarce resources. The evolution of the Climate Convention has only addressed the interests of developed countries to secure their lifestyles and not the long-term interests of the global community. For example, the IPCC acknowledges (in a footnote) that its emission reduction scenarios do not take into account lifestyle changes. 


We need to be strategic in our response because of two recent developments. 


First, the safeguards in the Climate Convention that developing countries were able to wrest at the last minute in 1992 are in danger of evaporating. Under Article 4.7, legally binding measures taken by developing countries for mitigation are contingent on the provision of financial resources and technology, and this requirement was waived at Copenhagen. The second safeguard, that eradication of poverty remains the overriding priority of developing countries, is planned to be negated at Cancun by focusing the agenda on international monitoring of developing county mitigation actions ignoring the infrastructure needs for eradication of poverty, and the attendant inevitable increase in emissions of carbon dioxide. 


Second, it is being argued that the challenge of climate change is too complex for the 'cumbersome' current institutions to deal with. Informal institutions outside the Climate Convention decision-making structure are being created. The UN Secretary-General has also set up a panel on sustainability charged with recommending how a 50% reduction in global emissions can be brought about by 2050; a target first proposed by the G8. While this panel, as a part of the United Nations framework has more legitimacy than other groupings, like the G20 and the Major Economies Forum, the emerging framework is driven by developed countries seeking to legitimise their overoccupation of the carbon space. 


The policy issue before us is how best to navigate the different processes while simultaneously shaping the agenda in the climate negotiations to retain the priority of eradication of poverty with respect to actions by developing countries. 


Rather than challenge the selective approach of the US to current commitments, we should take up their challenge, that "we're not pushing to have legally binding commitments on China or India or Brazil or anybody else... we're only saying that if it were to go in a legally binding direction then it would have to be legally binding for all the major players," as a reflection of the shift to a multipolar world. 


America's climate change negotiator Todd Stern, speaking at the end of the Major Economies Forum meeting in New York, stressed that at Copenhagen "all major economies developed and developing agreed to implement a set of actions... the old Kyoto paradigm that developed countries have to do things on a mandatory basis and developing countries don't... was not a feature of a Copenhagen Accord." This suggests the exploration of new frameworks where North-South divisions do not affect international cooperation, which we can also endorse. 
    We must push for a legally binding burden-sharing arrangement because we cannot allow carbon cuts to be put on hold; otherwise we will loose our fair share of the remaining global carbon space/budget. The nature and scale of the problem is such that codes of conduct will not be enough and rule-based approaches to assess adequacy of national actions will be needed. 


Developing countries must propose new rules rather than just oppose existing ones. National carbon budgets, based on equitable allocation criteria that are legally binding for all countries, will focus national policy in all countries on the transformation of the world economy and human activity, leading to patterns of resource use that are common for all countries. 


The new framework, for wider acceptability, could build on a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences of the US that the policy goal must be stated as a quantitative limit on domestic GHG emissions over a specified time period — in other words, a GHG emissions budget, with national shares of global emissions to be agreed at the multilateral level as the basis for developing and assessing domestic strategies. The analysis also acknowledges that 'global least cost' economic efficiency criteria for allocating global emissions among countries, as is being done by developed country institutions, leads to a lesser reduction effort for them as compared with an approach based on global 'fairness' concerns. 


The biophysical limits to growth should mean lifestyle changes, not depriving the poor.







IS THE self — as in the thing whichis'me',whichapparently is in charge of things that are 'mine' — really an illusion, as a lot of enlightened mystics, Eastern faith systems and sages down the ages have been telling us? Much of the resistance to this concept springs from ingrained, reinforced habits and deep personal feelings of experiencing a self which seems to be very much there all the time and being very much in control of all our conscious decisions, ideation and actions. Lately, however, a few chinks in this armoury are beginning to get noticed by scientists. 


As mentioned here earlier, in a series of experiments spanning the 1980s the psychologist and consciousness researcher, Benjamin Libet demonstrated that unconscious electrical processes in the brain actually precede people's conscious decisions. Subjects hooked up to instruments were instructed to carry out a simple motor action such as pressing a switch and then told to record when they first became aware of the wish or urge to do so. When Libet compared the actual time of the start of brain activity with the time the subjects reported their awareness of wanting to act, he was surprised to find a lag of several milliseconds. As of 2008, other researchers have found that in some cases, brain activity precedes a subject's awareness by up to seven seconds. 


Materialist philosophers have interpreted these results as bolstering their long-standing claim that consciousness — that is, the mind, self or 'me' — is merely an epiphenomenon or byproduct of the brain which only retrospectively creates a scenario of being in command and that we possess no real free will as such. But in that case, how does one follow the wise counsel to get rid of the illusion of self if there's no one there to do the ridding? 


That's where Libet's experiments come in again. He also found that although the brain is responsible for initiating an action because our consciousness is too slow to do so, it's still fast enough to have the power to 'veto' that action — something called 'free wont'. Meaning, it appears there's someone in the saddle after all holding the reins. So, even if the brain does generate an epiphenomenon that creates the illusion of being in control — an illusion we blindly embrace — we still have the power to reject that as merely a chimera. Just like the enlightened have been telling us all along.






                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee's concerns on inflation, particularly regarding food items, will be shared by much of this country. Ordinary citizens, particularly the millions in the unorganised sector, have been reeling under the high prices they have to pay for items of daily consumption. Moong, a vital source of protein for the poor, is still in the vicinity of rs 100 per kg, not to mention other pulses and dals. Mr Mukherjee has said overall inflationary pressures have decreased, and that one must now see the rate of growth of the increase. That is fair as prices are bound to rise when supply does not keep up with demand, but it is important to curb the runaway growth in prices.


The agriculture minister's role in this is critical: for unless food production can be increased on a war footing, the situation is not likely to come under control. Unfortunately, though, his role has been found wanting, leaving a lot of unease and frustration in the minds of the people, who feel very little is being done about this matter given the magnitude of the problem. Mr Sharad Pawar has an agricultural background and he has done much to change the face of Baramati in Maharashtra's Pune district, and also in the horticultural sector across the state, and it was expected he would have worked tirelessly to bring about a revolution in the nation's food production. The government knows well in advance when the country's foodgrain production is going to be plentiful, leading to excess procurement, so it should have created matching storage capacity. In fact, though, this was not done, and thus thousands of tonnes of foodgrain, worth around `50,000 crore, were left to rot in the open, with the government also preferring to let it rot rather than distributing it free of cost to the poor. We live in strange times indeed! In an interview published in this newspaper on Monday, Mr Mukherjee quite rightly spoke of the need to increase production in view of the proposed National Food Security Bill. One only hopes that he can goad the agriculture ministry into action, otherwise the entire food security matter will be a failure even before the bill becomes law. If the production falls short of the country's requirements, the government will once again have to go in for food imports, draining our resources and also inviting imported inflation. This in turn would increase the government's subsidy burden. It would be far easier and much more practical to insist that the agriculture ministry take responsibility for providing the groundwork for the success of the Food Security Bill. As Mr Mukherjee put it, "the very basic foundation of food security is production." Even good rains would be meaningless unless sowing takes place and there is a plan to increase food production. Since last year we have seen the Planning Commission deputy chairman and others say that food prices would fall when the rabi crop comes in; subsequently this goalpost was shifted to "if the rains are good", and now till the kharif crop, and so on...







First there was an all-party delegation and now a group of interlocutors under the chairmanship of an "eminent person" will begin the process of sustained dialogue with political parties and groups in Kashmir — all for the Valley. It is very clear that the first round has gone to the Hurriyat, the trendsetter for the jihadi-azadi groups in the Valley. But still it is by no means the sole representatives of all sections of the people. Kashmiri as well as non-Kashmiri-speaking communities like Gujjars and Bakarwals, as also the Shia community that participated in elections, do not subscribe either to the Hurriyat or to Pakistan Army-sponsored agenda. The interlocutor groups will have fair chances of a receptive audience but it will nevertheless be a demanding task and definitely uphill in places. Also, demand for international interlocutors might be raised by the Hurriyat and its adherents out of sheer cussedness if nothing else.


The Cabinet follow-up to the visit of the all-party delegation was undoubtedly swift and prescriptive. Their eight-point agenda advises measures to restore a degree of normalcy in civic life in the Valley and the preliminary response from the people has been encouraging, though optimism would be premature at this stage. Negotiations and talks — whether direct or through interlocutors — must be continued in good faith with all those who wish to sit across the discussion table and progress to the extent possible. But those in government surely realise that no amount of "Red Cross parcels" to the separatist elements in the Valley are likely to induce a change of heart at the present juncture because pro-Pakistan sentiments are too deeply implanted amongst them and aspirations to win their hearts and minds are utter delusion. The ground realities of the existing situation must include renewed focus on recalibration of strategies for long-term security of the Valley.


Against the background of a high-level agenda for normalising relations with Pakistan regardless of provocations by the latter, the basic factor driving the unrest in Kashmir remains the Pakistan Army's consistent long-term strategy of "death by a thousand cuts" using radicalised local surrogates like the Hurriyat. There should be no doubt that Jammu and Kashmir, specifically the Valley, continues to be the central front of this war. It is, therefore, essential that in its effort to "reach out" to separatists, India retains a sense of balance and does not get swept away by unrealistic sentimentality.


However, there is encouraging news coming out of the Kashmir Valley too. The Jammu and Kashmir Police — a local force with a large representation from the Valley — is bearing up admirably under the stress of public confrontations with street mobs who are their own kinfolk. Like all forces in similar circumstances, the police is under undoubted psychological stress, but there have been few if any cases reported so far of refusals or dereliction of duty. It is important to give them due credit and recognition. The Central Reserve Police Force is the other main agency functioning under orders of the local police. They are doing a workmanlike job as everywhere but the rank and file requires firmer handling by their own commanders who, in turn, require professional training in crowd psychology and management.


Home minister P. Chidambaram's agenda constitutes a security directive conveyed in advisory terms and has to be fully complied with, in terms of reduction of the profile and density of security forces in Srinagar, as also selection of areas from where the Disturbed Areas Act and its accompanying Armed Forces Special Powers Act would be removed (though thankfully not diluted). This is to be worked out by the Unified Headquarters, as is proper, but for the record, experiences of similar expedients in Manipur have been unsatisfactory.


From Delhi, it was the Valley region of Jammu and Kashmir which was initially perceived to be burning, but as the all-party delegation discovered on its rather perfunctory visit to Jammu, that region of the state was surely fuming too at the exclusive focus of the Indian political establishment on an area which stridently rejects any Indian identity, while Jammu, which holds steadfastly to its Indian parentage seems fated to remain a stepchild.


Some members of the delegation, at the instance of the Left parties, took an independent initiative to personally visit and interact with the leaders of the Hurriyat under house arrest. It was a decision others publicly disassociated from. Their visit to the Hurriyat leaders was an attempt at honourable reconciliation, a gesture undoubtedly required at a time of bitter confrontation but their needlessly obsequious and deference in full glare of the national media deeply shamed the watching nation and reminded many of 1993 when the then adviser to the governor stood with his head similarly bowed before the militants occupying the Hazratbal Mosque before abjectly succumbing to their diktats. India's approach to the Kashmir Valley has been endlessly conciliatory and there is now a palpable sense of unease and anxiety in the rest of the country. How much more is the government prepared to concede to "win the unwinnable" in terms of hearts and minds in the Valley and unilaterally pursue peace with Pakistan driven by its Army?


The eight-point agenda announced by the home minister at his press conference on September 25 was described as a first step towards a "new beginning". All in the Valley must understand that this has to be within the parameters of the Indian Constitution, both with the rest of the country as also the other regions within the state, which want no part of a "jihaadi-azadi". Let the reverse flow begin — it is now high time for the Valley to reach out to the rest of India. It can be done.


The tailpiece concerns a photograph published in a prominent English daily covering the visit of the all-party delegation, showing two leading lights of the two separate Communist parties standing devoutly at the Hazratbal Mosque during the course of the visit, with heads covered and hands folded in supplication to the resident Almighty. Both these professedly hardcore, hardline Marxist gentlemen attend Parliament from West Bengal. Question: Can the public of their state expect to see them similarly at the Kalighat Temple as well?


* Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former member of Parliament








A note to Tea Party activists: This is not the movie you think it is. You probably imagine that you're starring in The Birth of a Nation, but you're actually just extras in a remake of Citizen Kane.


True, there have been some changes in the plot. In the original, Kane tried to buy high political office for himself. In the new version, he just puts politicians on his payroll.


I mean that literally. As Politico recently pointed out, every major contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination who isn't currently holding office and isn't named Mitt Romney is now a paid contributor to Fox News. Now, media moguls have often promoted the careers and campaigns of politicians they believe will serve their interests. But directly cutting cheques to political favourites takes it to a whole new level of blatancy.


Arguably, this shouldn't be surprising. Modern American conservatism is, in large part, a movement shaped by billionaires and their bank accounts, and assured paycheques for the ideologically loyal are an important part of the system. Scientists willing to deny the existence of man-made climate change, economists willing to declare that tax cuts for the rich are essential to growth, strategic thinkers willing to provide rationales for wars of choice, lawyers willing to provide defences of torture, all can count on support from a network of organisations that may seem independent on the surface but are largely financed by a handful of ultrawealthy families.


And these organisations have long provided havens for conservative political figures not currently in office. Thus when Senator Rick Santorum was defeated in 2006, he got a new job as head of the America's Enemies programme at the Ethics and Public Policy Centre, a thinktank that has received funding from the usual sources: the Koch brothers, the Coors family, and so on.


Now Mr Santorum is one of those paid Fox contributors contemplating a presidential run. What's the difference?


Well, for one thing, Fox News seems to have decided that it no longer needs to maintain even the pretense of being nonpartisan.


Nobody who was paying attention has ever doubted that Fox is, in reality, a part of the Republican political machine; but the network — with its Orwellian slogan, "fair and balanced" — has always denied the obvious. Officially, it still does. But by hiring those GOP candidates, while at the same time making million-dollar contributions to the Republican Governors Association and the rabidly anti-Obama United States Chamber of Commerce, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, which owns Fox, is signalling that it no longer feels the need to make any effort to keep up appearances.


Something else has changed, too: increasingly, Fox News has gone from merely supporting Republican candidates to anointing them. Christine O'Donnell, the upset winner of the GOP Senate primary in Delaware, is often described as the Tea Party candidate, but given the publicity the network gave her, she could equally well be described as the Fox News candidate. Anyway, there's not much difference: the Tea Party movement owes much of its rise to enthusiastic Fox coverage.


As the Republican political analyst David Frum put it, "Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox" — literally, in the case of all those non-Mitt-Romney presidential hopefuls. It was days later, by the way, that Mr Frum was fired by the American Enterprise Institute. Conservatives criticise Fox at their peril.


So the ministry of propaganda has, in effect, seized control of the politburo. What are the implications?
Perhaps the most important thing to realise is that when billionaires put their might behind "grassroots" right-wing action, it's not just about ideology: it's also about business. What the Koch brothers have bought with their huge political outlays is, above all, freedom to pollute. What Mr Murdoch is acquiring with his expanded political role is the kind of influence that lets his media empire make its own rules.


Thus in Britain, a reporter at one of Mr Murdoch's papers, News of the World, was caught hacking into the voice mail of prominent citizens, including members of the royal family. But Scotland Yard showed little interest in getting to the bottom of the story. Now the editor who ran the paper when the hacking was taking place is chief of communications for the Conservative government — and that government is talking about slashing the budget of the BBC, which competes with the News Corporation.


So think of those paycheques to Sarah Palin and others as smart investments. After all, if you're a media mogul, it's always good to have friends in high places. And the most reliable friends are the ones who know they owe it all to you.







Though the people of the country in general have welcomed the Allahabad high court judgment in the Ayodhya case, some legal experts are raising questions on its legality, describing it a sort of formulation devised by a "panchayat" with the court not deciding the case strictly within the four corners of the law. Former Additional Advocate-General of India and senior Supreme Court advocate K.N. Bhat, who was the counsel for "Bhagwan Shri Ram Virajman (the deity)" and "Asthan Ram Janmabhoomi" whose suit was allowed, in an interaction with S.S. Negi has tried to put the legal aspects in the right perspective. Mr Bhat, who had been ASG between 1996-1998, had been involved with the case for long and has a deep knowledge of every issue related to it. Now he sees a chance of Hindu factions fighting over the Ram Temple issue rather than a fight between Hindus and Muslims.


Q. What is the real legal implications of the verdict in Ayodhya case, has it been decided strictly as per the law, or has the court gone beyond it?
A. The suits have been decided generally in accordance with law e.g. Suit No. 3 (Nirmohi Akhara) and Suit No. 4 (Sunni Waqf Board) have been dismissed on the ground of limitation i.e. they were filed beyond the period prescribed by law. Nirmohi's suit was dismissed on the additional ground of not impleading the necessary party viz., the deity.
The decision on Janmasthan being a deity and that the particular area below the central dome (when it existed) being "by tradition, belief and faith" the birthplace of Lord Ram are based on the sound principles of law and good precedents in the form of decisions by the Privy Council, the Supreme Court of India and many authoritative texts on religion.
However, in the matter of dividing the property in the manner it did, the court has gone beyond strict legal principles of the pleadings and prayer because no one pleaded so, nor prayed for such a relief.


Q. Some legal experts have described the verdict as a sort of formulation devised by a "panchayat" as the suits are not decided within the four corners of the law. Do you agree with this?
A. The decision to divide the disputed site into three portions was rightly criticised as a sort of panchayat. This criticism is subject to correction after reading the full text of the judgment that would have justified the decision for reasons stated. The question naturally arises, how can the Sunni Board and Nirmohi Akhara get any share of the land after their suits have been dismissed — a defendant can get no relief in a suit except in a suit for partition, dissolution of a firm or the like. I must add that many a time judgments that may not be technically sound serve a great public good — this decision was primarily responsible for getting all sections equally happy or unhappy and hence peace prevails. A Persian proverb says, "All round injustice is some times full justice".


Q. Is it not a "conscious" attempt by the judges to lay the foundation for mediation through judicial intervention when the case goes to the Supreme Court after their efforts to bring about the mediation had failed?
A. Yes, it appears to be a conscious attempt to facilitate settlement. While I was arguing the case, Justice Khan had specifically asked me whether there was a possibility of division of the land in dispute. Every one, including me, answered in the negative.


Q. Do you think that the high court has failed to enforce the constitutional mandate of adjudicating the case strictly as per the law as was generally expected?
A. No. The high court has discharged its mandate fully. The direction to divide the land into three portions may appear to be a panchayat, but, in reality, the plaintiffs whose suits have been dismissed cannot get a decree for a share in the property. Accordingly, it is a theoretical declaration of right.


Q. Why did the mediation attempts by the high court fail?
A. No one in fact had the mandate of the people behind (the parties) to settle the dispute. It is whispered that some sections would lose a perpetual source of income if the dispute ends.


Q. Do you expect the Supreme Court to uphold the verdict after it has been generally hailed by people from both communities, who are much relieved that it, in a way, has had a soothing effect on the tension caused due to the Mandir-Masjid controversy?
A. At some stage or the other, the Supreme Court would certainly try to settle the matter amicably — maybe when one party or the other moves the apex court for an interim direction, like permission to build a temple during the pendency of the appeal.


Q. Do you think the verdict has laid the foundation for the closure of the centuries-old dispute and relieving the country of a great social and communal tension?
A. The verdict has put an end to one chapter. When the next one will end is a matter of speculation.


Q. Will an attempt to build the Ram Temple there revive communal tension even if the Supreme Court ratifies the high court verdict?
A. I don't expect the revival of communal tension on account of building of the temple. The competition will be between the two Hindu factions, rather than Hindus and Muslims.


Q. Do you see any possibility of the mosque being built close by if the trifurcation formula is finally upheld by the Supreme Court?
A. The right to build a mosque will depend upon the confirmation of the title — whether the Sunni Board has, in fact, acquired a right. The Supreme Court can surely set the matter at rest.


Q. What could be the possible political fallout of the verdict? If implemented in its present form, do you think it will help forge greater bonding between Hindus and Muslims?
A. The answer will depend upon the manner of implementation. As I said, the two Hindu factions, unless they unite, are likely to be fighting with one and another rather than the Muslims and Hindus.








There's no doubt about it, this is incredible India all right. Where else in the world would you get judges of a high court treating a deity as litigant in a legal case? And then, because the said deity, otherwise referred to as Ram Lalla in the judgment, is to be treated as a minor (was this the only reason He did not appear in court himself?) where else would you find the court awarding land rights to his "next friend", a contemporary human and a trust that human is associated with?


For residents of Delhi, there have been other recent signs of our Indian incredibleness. The Commonwealth Games have thrown up different aspects of this almost continuously in the past few months. Of course, it could be argued that by now ordinary Indians should be inured to the spectacles of corruption and incompetence to which we have been exposed around this event. Even so, our rulers retain the capacity to surprise us.


Possibly the most startling relatively new thing that has come to attention in Delhi is the emergence of a generalised "purdah" around those parts of the city that have been deemed to be unsightly for visitors' eyes, and therefore to be rendered invisible.


What exactly am I talking about? In the week prior to the opening ceremony of the by-then dreaded Commonwealth Games, new temporary screens pasted with large posters suddenly sprang up all over different roads in Delhi. The posters blazoned the CWG logo and had depictions of the enthusiastically cheerful tiger mascot Shera with his arms outstretched, inviting us to "come out and play". The funny thing is that these were not on billboards that would have been widely visible, but ground level, on pavements and the sides of roads, often restricting pedestrian access, and always adding to an overall sense of constriction and even clutter.


If the idea was to advertise the Games, it was surely a most inefficient way of doing so. But no, advertising the Games was only a minor part of their purpose. So what were they actually for? It turns out that these strange objects are "view-cutters" — which must be the latest proud Indian addition to the ever-mutating English language — designed to conceal the dirtier and more sordid aspects of metropolitan Delhi from foreign visitors.


The idea is simply breathtaking — and it could only happen in India. Other countries and cities bid to host international events with a view to improving the infrastructure and facilities available for residents, and increasingly urban renewal has become an important element of this. For example, London's successful bid to host the next Olympic Games was predicated on its promise to develop the run-down inner city areas and clean up and regenerate the deprived zones by providing new urban utilities and services.


By contrast, what has Delhi done for the bulk of its residents, more than a quarter of whom still reside in chaotic, congested and deprived slum settlements? Most of these slums lack proper drainage, piped water supply, and even basic sanitation and toilet facilities that would be minimally adequate for a healthy life. In these settlements, people are cramped together in tiny and precarious housing of such poor quality that the recent rains have rendered many of them uninhabitable; electrical connections are often random and illegal; street lighting is patchy and inadequate; other services simply do not exist. The question of periodic cleaning of such areas by the municipal authorities is rarely if ever addressed.


So did the run-up to the Commonwealth Games involve some attempts to provide more infrastructure and better facilities in slums and other congested areas? Since this is all about Games, after all, and Shera wants us to come out and play, did the planners even consider the matter of providing playgrounds to children who now have nowhere at all to play in large parts of the city? Was there any attempt to democratise the sports facilities that are being created so that ordinary children will also have access?


Unfortunately, none of this was even thought of, much less attempted. Instead, the so-called beautification of the city has all been about exclusion and destruction of livelihoods. In the name of "streetscaping" (most of which reveals an aesthetic that is problematic in the extreme) street vendors have been removed with no compensation, and locals have been deprived of the conveniences such vendors provided. The rubble created by new construction has been pushed into side streets, shifting the problem onto residents.


And now on top of all this injury comes this unparalleled insult: that the poor are not to be visible, because the squalor, filth and congestion in which they are forced to live will create a bad impression for foreigners. We can't or won't try to fix it, but we can hide it, seems to be the motto. So up come the view-cutters. Typically, even this matter has been handled incompetently, so that attempts at drawing attention away from the dirty mess actually end up revealing it, as the makeshift huts of the poor rise jauntily above some of the screens, or as piles of rubble and dirt spill under other screens, or as gaps in the barriers expose the pathetic reality of the urban squalor that lurks behind the shiny new facades.


This extraordinary act of trying to conceal an unpleasant reality instead of dealing with it and attempting to improve it may indeed seem incredible to the foreigners visiting the city during the Games. So it will certainly add one more dimension to incredible India.


But for those who are familiar with the long-lived and wretchedly persistent tolerance of inequality that seems to be ingrained in Indian society, this may be only too credible. Among the more disgusting historical caste practices in the subcontinent was one that rendered certain castes — and even their shadows — "unseeable" by the higher castes. Those notions of pollution and purity have surely been abandoned by most of the population for some time now. But what we are seeing in Delhi now is really another version of this, whereby the poor and the dreadful conditions in which they have to live are to be rendered unseeable by foreigners, so as to preserve what we fondly think of as our positive external image. Even more than the actual reality, it is this ultimately ineffectual duplicity which should be a source of national shame.








 "From the inside out... The value of all things lies in their purpose, in the germinating seed. Nothing is seen, admired or loved except what is so fine and beautiful that one penetrates into the very heart of the thing by study, research and exploration. By devious ways we reach the centre."


— Creation is a patient search by Le Corbusier


As differently as it maybe interpreted, the Ayodhya verdict has presented the greatest opportunity for an architectural solution to a spiritual issue. In this, we need the vision of a Master Architect who looks at nature as a source of common inspiration. Who understands that we breathe the same air, are cleansed by the same waters, invigorated by the same sun and the same darkness engulfs us all. We need an architect with a blend of Awadhi ethos and a global humanist mind and genius of the likes of Le Corbusier or Frank Llyod Wright who changed the sensibility of a whole nation with their work. We can also look at two architects from two communities to address the issue. We can bring commonality to blend with the differences in an organic way. There are thousands of examples in small towns and villages where temple and mosques stand side by side in natural architectural harmony. We can move one step ahead and enter the 21st century with a new statement and a renewed enforcement of our secular ideals. We need at least some people to think on the lines of an aesthetic dimension to an answer we need to provide soon. While the division of space is going to take place there has to be an integration in the division. And the biggest factor can be nature — a landscape which unites us. May be the same stone from the same quarry, the same stone cutter and carver and the same cement from the same factory. And even similar architectural elements that have come to symbolise the "Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb of Awadh (Ayodhya)".


An architecture which blends with this element of nature and keeps reinforcing that we are the creation of one maker. We exude the fragrance of that one maker that made us so perfectly similar and equal in all eyes. He blessed them with livelihood whichever way they prayed or not prayed, believed in him or not. Whatever form they gave him or kept him formless as spoken in Quran. He talks of his attributes not his form. In the same vein he has recognised and exalted his creations not through the outer form of how they look and manifest themselves but through their behaviour and attributes. In just the same way the man of God seeks in the chosen people of God the same pure light. Thus a man of God is always in quest. Always seeking , always finding.


The Sufis on the soil of India did just that. They saw divinity in pure form in Lord Krishna and Lord Ram. They saw his light on peoples' faces and were enriched and enlightened by it. They made it their own aura and faith. They made him a symbol of their own expression of truth for all to understand. They saw pure love and devotion and adopted it to reinforce submission to the Divine. They used the outer form to reach the inner attribute.


The Islamic orientation helped the Sufis to take the journey from the zaat to the siffaat. From the outer form to the attributes. From the zahir to the batin. Yet they kept the sanctity of the outer form. They not only kept the sanctity but used it in their artistic celebration of the same. Their purpose was to celebrate truth and the protagonist of truth in every way to reach out to the people.


Today when I write Raja Syed before my given name I instantly link my descent to Lord Ram and the Holy Prophet Mohammad. I am reminded of their attributes as "Insan-e-Kamil" and "Maryada Purshottam" which helps reinforce an affinity between the two great faiths of the world.

— Muzaffar Ali is a filmmaker and painter.


He is the Executive Director and Secretary ofthe Rumi Foundation. He can be contactedat [1]









NOBODY would dispute the contention that the Central Reserve Police Force has been having an extremely hard time these past eight months. Whether encountering Maoists in central India or facing stone-pelting mobs in the Kashmir Valley it has not only been at the "receiving end", but has done little to convince that it has the capacity to turn things around. So, in keeping with the theory that "there are no bad soldiers, only bad generals", a change at the top might just turn out to be the inspiring, energising, morale-booster desperately needed by the nation's premier paramilitary force ~ at least in terms of deployment. The man tipped to take command of the force (in typical home ministry fashion his name has been fed to the media before the formal appointment) certainly has an impressive track-record. K Vijay Kumar will bring to the office the "scalp" of the notorious brigand of the southern jungles ~ Veerapan ~ and the experience of an operational role in J&K in 1998 when militancy was raging. He definitely has his task cut out. Since reports suggest he has been handpicked for it by the home minister, hopefully he will be backed to the hilt. For, he will have no magic wand to effect a quick-fix solution.

Without in any way questioning the professional capacities of the incoming occupant of the hot seat, it is pertinent to ask whether a strategic/tactical re-vamp and fresh leadership will suffice to remedy the long-endured sufferings of the neglected organisation. Unlike the more focused BSF and ITBP, the CRPF is the "one size fits all" response of those in high authority: expert in "file-solutions" but ignorant of "ground" realities. What valid explanation can there be of how the same set of men are expected to undertake law-and-order duties during elections and communal situations, provide sentry services at Parliament House, line the streets during VIP movements, as well  as take on both Left-wing extremists and Pak-sponsored militants. Not to forget the insurgencies in the North-east. They are overstressed victims of a deficit in equipment, training and leadership, as well as of basic creature comforts in their camps. The upgrade process must start at the bottom, progress upward; it will not trickle down. More importantly, the "chief" must prove the "jawan's man". It doesn't matter much if he gels with the politicised babus and "babufied politicians" who believe that the fount of all wisdom is located in North Block.



There are more than two months left before the Election Commission begins the process of deciding the dates for the assembly election in Bengal. But already the contenders have taken resort to tactics that cross the limits of civilised conduct. Till such time as the election code comes into force, there may be no obligation to observe the rules of the game. But what should be a political battle has been stripped of basic decencies. It is worse when leaders fail to set an example and indeed send out ominous signals that there is nothing foul in a battle where one side is fighting to protect its turf and the other pulling out all the stops to sustain the electoral mood of the past two years. The chief minister, as his party's brand ambassador, may need to adjust his tone to different occasions. But what may have shocked even his sympathisers was his choice of words to threaten the Opposition at a rally in Midnapore that could only have mocked the lyricism and passion he has been pouring into his recitations of Tagore, Jibanananda Das, Sukanta and Mayakovsky. Politicians with literary pretensions are inevitably victims of split personalities.

But it doesn't augur well when his rivals are driven to launch another round of personal attacks. And this is only the beginning. Never, perhaps, in Bengal's political history have rivalries stooped to a level where one side thinks of "eliminating'' the other. It makes nonsense of the democratic principle of the Opposition claiming not only political space but performing a responsible role. Now the most alarming images are those of villages being "captured'' by armed goons so as to pre-determine the voice of the electorate and the administration being forcibly brought to a halt because the Opposition believes that a change of guard is likely within the next six months. While police don't see any reason to deal with gross acts of politicised lawlessness, statutory appointments like those of chief information commissioner and chairman of the state human rights commission must await an elusive nod from the Opposition. Either way it suggests that West Bengal may be losing all traces of governance, even raising fears of slipping into chaos. Both sides have gone too far. There must still be some hope that parties will restrict their battle to reason ~ and leave the rest to the voter.



THE dismissal of a Mayor, however pre-eminent the city, would scarcely have aroused much interest across the world. The sacking of Moscow's powerful Mayor, Yury Luzhkov, by the Russian President carries a pregnant message. It mirrors most crucially the power struggle within Russia, a feature of its political history since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Having signed the decree while on a visit to China, Dmitry Medvedev has only formalised the parting of the ways. It signals the culmination of tensions within the establishment despite hitherto feverish efforts to insulate in-house discord from the public domain. Mr Medvedev has been as diplomatic as he could be, defending his action on the ground that the "Moscow mayor had lost his trust". This is labouring the very obvious. The tension and the struggle between the President and the Mayor had been brewing for some time and was fairly exposed when the state-controlled television was directed by the Kremlin to air documentaries to run down Luzhkov. This by itself was an exceptional development. There is no indication yet that the Mayor was given an opportunity to respond to the charges beamed on TV. In the main, they pertain to corruption, a leader who allegedly "runs the city to further the interests of his billionaire wife", his absence from Moscow during this summer's smog ~ a major environmental setback ~ and the fortune spent from the public exchequer to salvage his personal bee collection. These charges are indubitably serious not least because they focus on what the Kremlin perceives has been his ineptitude. No less profound is Luzhkov's own version. He has described himself as a democrat, cast in the mould of the Soviet-era dissidents. The ideological underpinning, if not conceded, is pretty much obvious. Nay more, he has even taken a swipe at Medvedev, charging him with trying to appoint somebody more pliable. Between the Kremlin's version and the outgoing Mayor's critique of the President must lie the real story of  Luzhkov's exit.  The conclusion is inescapable that he was ideologically unacceptable to the Kremlin.  His professional failures only brought matters to a head, though it is generally conceded that he had changed the look of Moscow to a chic consumerist city. Muted thus far has been the reaction of Vladimir Putin, to whom Luzhkov is said to be close.









COMMUNITY policing has emerged as an important facet of law enforcement. This has raised certain questions about its scope, efficacy, implementation and future.  Even senior police officers are apparently not clear about the concept. There is a misconception that any form of contact between the police and the community comes into the domain of community policing.

The system involves a paradigm shift in the basic concept of law-enforcement. The police will have to recognise that the community is its best resource and greatest ally in the battle against crime and disorder. The partnership not only helps combat crime, but also lessens the fear of crime. The community's standpoint has to be factored in the police programmes and the priorities fixed accordingly.

Community policing is now being practised in several countries. In the late Seventies  and Eighties, the police in England, the USA, Japan, Germany, and Canada were experimenting with alternatives to the conventional bureaucratic policing, one that widened the gulf between the citizens and the police. In the USA, for example, the existing system was reviewed in the face of demands for linkage between the police and the community. President Clinton made it the centrepiece of his anti-crime campaign. Substantial federal funding for the growth of criminal justice education resulted in the development of empirical research in policing. The research findings challenged the practices and beliefs. Surveys documented unreported crime. Out of a sense of fear, citizens didn't always report the incidence of crime. The evolution of community policing in the USA also involved a joint endeavour by police officers and academics. Community policing has been remarkably successful in Japan and Singapore as well.

At the level of law enforcement, there is a mistaken assumption that the community is seeking partnership with the police. Not quite. The community is often sceptical. Misgivings that cooperation with the police might incur criminal reprisal are not wholly unfounded.  Without commitment and sincerity, the police will not be able to ensure the success of community policing. Public relations and community interaction are not identical. A community relations programme is not a public relations programme to promote the image of the police. It isn't a quick-fix  measure to calm an agitated area. It is a long-term effort to acquaint the police and the community with each other's problems and to stimulate action aimed at solving these problems.

Community policing should not be a top-down arrangement. It is a unique system, in that it relies on inputs not merely from community leaders and blue ribbon panels. It seeks data from all stakeholders, even encouraging the disinterested to be involved. The police has to work out its strategy with the local people. The latter will also have to help.

Respect for all citizens and a degree of sensitivity are the major factors that determine the success of community policing. Favouring one group can lead to adverse consequences. Influential groups must never try to exploit community policing to serve their own needs. A sense of equity does not imply equal distribution of police resources and services. Areas where crime rates are high will always require more police intervention  and larger deployment of resources. But there should be no unfair discrimination. Training is a critical aspect. In India, some of the community policing programmes  have floundered because the force isn't suitably trained and is, therefore, clueless. Those who man police stations are also doubling up as  community policing officers. No wonder they are generally ineffective. The training in community policing should supplement the law-enforcement techniques. Communication and leadership skills can ensure the involvement of the community. The police need to be trained in subjects that are not taken up in the academies, such as housing problems, and the role and responsibilities of other departmental agencies.

The "evidence base" must be strong enough to support the system of community policing. There is an excess of hyperbole at the moment. Research will guide the police organizations to justify the priorities and commitments in the context of  public accountability. The police must be able to assess the impact of their own strategies and use their knowledge to provide greater safety, and thereby reassure the public.

The system has its challenges. First, there is likely to be an erosion of support if the community's expectations are not fulfilled.  Community policing may deflect the focus of the police from its core functions.  Some senior police officers have denigrated community policing officers (CPOs) as "lollipop cops". The  system doesn't actually  neglect or ignore the law-enforcement role of the police.  Its duties towards society can be  performed in addition to the law-enforcement functions and not as a substitute for the actual task. Indeed, successful community policing can improve and enhance the quality of police operations by strengthening the cooperation with the community.

Second, misgivings have been expressed to the effect that community policing may undermine professionalism. This criticism will be valid if the concept transforms the police officers to social workers. Community policing is primarily a crime prevention effort. Investigative policing has to continue in parallel.

Third, there are dangers of strain and tension within the police when the emphasis shifts from conventional operations to fresh initiatives. But community policing ought not to be an independent entity within the organization. It is not meant to be a substitute for other forms of policing. It has to play a complementary role.
Fourth, the lack of honest evaluation hampers the advancement of community policing. Lessons are seldom drawn from mistakes. Several community policing projects have not been successful because they have seldom been objectively evaluated.

Fifth, community policing is more successful in well-organized and cohesive communities that need community policing the least. It is difficult to garner support in disorganized communities riven by caste, creed and religious divisions. 

Finally, the expectations of political leaders and the public must never be unrealistic. Community policing is not a quick-fix system; it calls for long-term commitment, periodic reviews and corrective measures. The system might take some time to expand. Progress will be slow because neither the political class nor the police are in favour of empowering the citizens and make the police accountable to the community.

The writer is Senior Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences; former Director-General, National Human Rights Commission; and former Director, National Police Academy








The line between austerity and profligacy is thin. The two often melt into each other. However, all agree that thrift is absolutely necessary when there is a crisis like an unmitigated deficit. A disproportionate fiscal deficit is the harbinger of pernicious economic mismanagement. 

Greece is the latest example of financial disaster. The European Union rushed to Greece's rescue. Still, the serious wounds leading the country to the verge of bankruptcy won't heal soon. India is a larger economy compared to Greece. It is conscious of its impediments. Precariously poised on a fiscal deficit, it can ill afford to indulge in profligacy such as unrestrained subsidies which aren't a solution ~ on the contrary, they multiply problems. Now that India is surging, it must try to minimise its snowballing fiscal deficit, otherwise it will face more damage. 

There can be no real progress if revenue is eaten by subsidies given indiscriminately. First, funds meant for development get depleted. Secondly, deficit forces withdrawal from welfare activities. Thirdly, the financial crunch cripples borrowing, causing a downturn. Together it makes the situation difficult to handle. It calls for aggressive remedial steps lest the economy is burdened with debt. In spite of economic growth, subsidies haven't helped in poverty reduction. Swami Vivekananda has said, "All the wealth of the world cannot help one little Indian village, if the people are not taught to help themselves." Happily, India is now free of myopia. It craves to be liberated. 

Arguably, lifting subsidy from a vital area affects the ordinary man. It brings him comfort before long. His power of resilience allows him to adjust to a momentary crisis. The money withdrawn from the subsidy utilised for infrastructure would benefit him. It would serve to pull him out of his plight. 

The fact that India's economy relies on the monsoon is proof of its dependence on agriculture. Besides rice and wheat, there are other useful crops farmers produce. Among them, fruits and vegetables are noteworthy. India was "the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world". According to a report of 2003, "out of 370 million tons of fruit produced in the world, India accounted for 30 million tons, and of the 456 million tons of vegetables, India's share was 59 million tons or 17 per cent. Yet India's share was only 1 per cent of the world's trade of fruits and vegetables".

The wastage it incurred on account of poor storage, transport and connectivity is unacceptable. The loss of 25 per cent is huge when consumers are eagerly wanting the products. Unfortunately, the situation is still no better. A national journal writes: "India's road connectivity is so poor that the delays are estimated to cost the economy nearly one per cent of its GDP. Every year India loses Rs 70,000 crore as agri produce rots in the fields and on the way to markets because of poor connectivity." 

The market is receptive and the supply low. Our GDP grows with the rise of our agricultural produce and simultaneous fall in inflation. Supporting agriculture sumptuously and managing trade wisely with the produce of farmers, we can bring down the inflation rate without much hassle. 

Swami Vivekananda found business an effective means "for the struggle for existence". He observed how advanced "countries are turning out such golden results from the raw materials produced in" our country. He urged us to cleverly stem the drainage of natural resources. Who knows, maybe he advised Jamshedji Tata, while travelling with him from Yokohama to Vancouver in 1893, to start a steel industry, making the best use of iron ore. Not unlikely. The tone and text of a letter Jamshedji wrote to him later suggest that they had many important discussions. 

Swamiji inspired us to go abroad with Indian goods. He said: "If you cannot procure money, go to foreign countries, working your passage as a Lascar. Take Indian cloth, towels, bamboo-work, and other indigenous products, and peddle in the streets of Europe and America; you will find how greatly Indian products are appreciated in foreign markets". 

In America he was pleased to find "some Mohammedans of the Hooghly district" growing "rich by peddling Indian commodities in this way". He advised them to take "such excellent fabric as the Varanasi saris of India, the like of which are not produced anywhere else in the world". He even gives a tip for good business: "Have gowns made out of this fabric and sell them, and you will see how much you earn." 

Swamiji asked one of his disciples somehow to "go over there". He said he would "introduce" him to his "friends". He said: "At first I shall request them to take this cloth up among themselves. Then you will find many will follow suit, and at last you won't be able to keep the supply up to the enormous demand." He offered him the initial capital saying: "Even if you die in this attempt, well and good, many will take up the work, following your example. And if you succeed, you will live a life of great opulence." He was keen to promote indigenous products in the global market. 

The peasant, the shoemaker, the sweeper and other ordinary people of India "have much greater capacity for work and self-reliance". "They have been silently working through long ages and producing the entire wealth of the land, without a word of complaint," said Swamiji, He was sure that "soon they will get above" others with capital gradually "drifting into their hands". He noticed "new avenues of wealth lie yet undiscovered for want of the inventive genius". 

Vivekananda's predictions are proving correct. No one can contradict the view that "India is rising" despite "chaos and strife" to become a "glorious and invincible", as he visualised in his "mind's eye". Inclusive planning and popular participation will bail us out of difficulties if politics doesn't take over economics. It is amazing that India has already recorded overwhelming progress in the midst of unprecedented pressures. This indicates her limitless potential that is waiting to be manifest on a larger scale. 

The writer is associated with Ramakrishna Mission Vidyapith, Deoghar








Home minister Chidambaram is fighting the Maoists. The government is attempting a two-pronged strategy. It hopes to improve the economic conditions of Maoist-infected areas. It attempts to neutralise Maoist fire power through effective police action. The latter includes identifying and blocking foreign sources of arms and funds for all insurgents which undoubtedly do exist. 

However, there is a third prong required to fight not only the Maoists but many other dormant insurgencies across India waiting to be ignited among aggrieved citizens. The third prong relates to proper police conduct by providing professional police training. The present dreadful image of the police is not a minor factor in the arousal of public anger and protest.

To get an idea of how the public must be perceiving the custodians of law and order, just watch TV. There have been innumerable occasions of police brutality in almost all states of the Union that have been captured on camera and telecast. The latest is an incident in Patna last Saturday. One woman was allegedly molested by an SHO when she went to the police station to register a complaint. She went to report a crime against a woman. Women sympathisers organised a protest against the police officer. Male policemen cane-charged the women pounding blows mercilessly. The women appeared poor and frail. The cops were uniformed and burly. The pounding was savage and brutal.

If Maoists or any other insurgent group approached the friends, neighbours and relatives of the many victims of this police brutality for recruitment, how would they react? Ordinary people express anger through violence. Their anger can provide a rich harvest for powers with vested interests to destabilise and weaken India. It is so much easier to cash in on public anger to foment violence and chaos. It is so much more difficult to channelise that anger through a peaceful mass movement and genuine revolution. That is why change eludes us and chaos overwhelms us.

Has Home Minister Chidambaram reflected on this aspect? For a start he could watch more TV. 

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist








Indian and Pakistani diplomats engaged in heated exchanges at the UN General Assembly over Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistani deputy ambassador Amjad Hussain B Sial accused India of sponsoring terrorism in neighbouring countries in a prepared "Right to Reply'' after Indian external affairs minister SM Krishna slammed Islamabad for sponsoring terrorism and militancy in Jammu and Kashmir and said it should not impart lessons  on democracy and human rights. 

"The Indian government is well advised to take careful stock of its own polices that includes supporting terrorist elements in neighbouring countries which contributes to the problems facing South Asia," Mr Sial stated. "India is also the country which conceived, created and nurtured the most lethal terrorist organisation, which introduced suicide bombings in our region. Still India has the nerve to give lectures on morality to others," he said in an indirect reference to LTTE. 

Mr Sial said: "The Indian Minister of External Affairs has once again made the self-serving claim that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Nothing could be far from reality and truth." He pointed out that 700,000 Indian security forces were deployed in Kashmir and described it as "the largest concentration of troops anywhere in the world."

Mr Sial said that the "disputed territory'' was on the agenda of the UN which had passed resolutions to that effect. Jawaharlal Nehru had also made commitments. He added that India failed to fulfil its commitments, but still had the audacity not only to claim democratic credentials but also to aspire to be a permanent member of the Security Council.

Mr Sial said Amnesty International had called on the Indian authorities to respect the right to life while Human Rights Watch had said that Kashmiris had been left without any justice. He pointed out that Kashmiris did not support the occupation of their land and persisted in their struggle for the right for self-determination.
He said that Pakistan did not interfere in internal affairs of other countries, but that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir was not an internal dispute. "Pakistan had the right to provide support to the people of Kashmir and their right to self-determination, he said. 

India, he said, had no other option but to implement Security Council's demand for a free and fair plebiscite under the UN auspices. Pakistan had engaged with India through the composite dialogue process and has not attached any pre-conditions for dialogue, he said. "What we are saying is that all issues which are outstanding between our two countries need to be discussed and need to be resolved. "Pakistan hopes that India will be ready to discuss all issues, particularly the Jammu and Kashmir, because it is the "root cause of problems between our two countries."

"Islamabad is raising the issue of Kashmir to deflect attention from its internal problems which needed to be addressed for the common good of Pakistanis, and thereby the entire region," said Manoj Gupta, a diplomat with the Indian mission to the UN. 

Mr Gupta said that "free and fair elections in Jammu and Kashmir have been regularly held and the people of Jammu and Kashmir have exercised their right to franchise to elect their representatives." 

"Untenable remarks will not and, indeed, cannot divert attention from the multiple problems Pakistan needs to tackle for the common good of its people, and indeed of the entire region," he added.

War massacres: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has released a report on "indescribable" atrocities committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1993 to 2003, where tens of thousands of people were killed, raped and mutilated by both armed Congolese group and foreign military forces. 
"The period covered by this report is probably one of the most tragic chapters in the recent history of the DRC," the report said. The 550-page report, listing 617 serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law over the 10-year period by both state and non-state actors, is the product of a mapping exercise that took over two years. 

It cited that 30,000 children were recruited or used by the armed forces or groups during the conflict and added that children have been subjected to "indescribable violence" including murder, rape, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, forced displacement and destruction of their villages. 

"If this situation is allowed to continue, there is a risk that a new generation will be created that has known nothing but violence, and violence as a means of conflict resolution, thus compromising the country's chances of achieving lasting peace," it said. 

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay noted that a leak in August in the French newspaper Le Monde of an earlier draft, that had been distributed to six countries in the region, led "to intense focus on one aspect of it", namely the possibility that the armed forces of Rwanda and their local allies may have committed acts which could constitute crimes of genocide. 

Polls in Myanmar: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stressed that the coming months will be critical for Myanmar as it prepares for the first national elections in two decades. He called on the authorities to make sure the polls were as inclusive, participatory and transparent as possible, according to information provided by his spokesman. 

Mr Ban said participants "expressed their encouragement, concerns and expectations regarding the current process," which are supposed to culminate in elections on 7 November". He was speaking to reporters after a high-level meeting of the Group of Friends on Myanmar. The meeting, held at the foreign minister level, discussed ways to intensify joint efforts to help Myanmar's government and people "achieve a successful transition towards a credible civilian and democratic government," Mr Ban said. 

Group of Friends also called on junta authorities to take steps to release all political prisoners, including the opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. "This is essential for the elections to be seen as credible and to contribute to Myanmar's stability and development," Mr Ban said.

Bangla at the UN: Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina told a high-level debate in New York that Bangla should be named an official UN language to reflect the vast number of its speakers and its heritage in literature and history. Sheikh Hasina told the assembly that an international movement to celebrate the use of mother languages was growing stronger. "Since Bangla is spoken by 300 million people worldwide, has a rich history in literature, history and in other fields, our Parliament adopted a resolution requesting the UN to declare Bangla as one of its official languages," she said. 

Unesco observed International Mother Language Day on 21 February, which commemorates the day in 1952 when students demonstrated peacefully for Bengali to be made an official language of what was then East Pakistan. They were shot dead by armed forces. 

anjali Sharma







When the occasion demands applause, the clapping should not be half-hearted. The success of the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games is undeniable and should make all the prophets of doomsday eat humble pie. It was a spectacle that made the nation proud. Thus what was feared to become the symbol of India's shame has become a triumph for the nation. Patriots were ecstatic but even those who are not easily given to patriotic excesses were forced to admit that as a spectacle the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi outshone the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing. The ceremony in Beijing, because it was the product of a highly regimented society and of a totalitarian regime, was so marked by discipline that it lacked spontaneity. It gave the impression that it was executed not by humans who had emotions to display and a sense of joy to communicate. Everything was too perfect to be true. The show in New Delhi had discipline and bore the signs of being well-planned and well-rehearsed but was not completely bereft of human will and emotion. These enhanced the overall impact by making the opening ceremony more humane and perhaps even humanizing.


The opening ceremony demonstrated to the world that India and Indians are capable of achieving the best. The process of reaching excellence, in this case, was not without hiccups; but this could not lower the standards of the performance on the opening day. There may be something uniquely Indian in this. India seemingly presents so much diversity that casual observers often miss the underlying unity of the mosaic. Similarly, the apparent chaos of the preparations deflected attention from the striving, away from the limelight, to touch excellence. Success always has many parents. But as critics work overtime to morph themselves into admirers, the fallout from the Games will be garnered by the ruling party to its own political and electoral advantage. This is par for the course under the circumstances. It is also fair since the ruling party would have had to take the responsibility of any failure. The spectre of failure has disappeared. Even if India does not win too many medals in the nineteenth Commonwealth Games, the most important trophy — that of organizing the Games — will go to India. It is the festive season when all Indians can hold their heads high.








Bad pennies have an odd knack of turning up at a time when they are least sought. Many Pakistanis, who had voted decisively to oust Pervez Musharraf from power in 2008, must be comforting themselves with this idea when they look at the newly-launched All Pakistan Muslim League of the former military dictator. But the likes of Mr Musharraf may no longer be as undesirable in the Pakistan milieu as they would seem two years ago. A mental swing away from a pro-democratic disposition could be detected in August, when the plea of the Muttahida Quami Movement leader, Altaf Hussain, for the return of a patriotic military leader to power generated substantial public response. The failure of the government to provide security to the people from terror attacks, a poor economy, and bad governance — laid bare by the devastating floods — have turned the public mood in Pakistan. Mr Musharraf, who has been detecting this swing for a while, now feels sufficiently emboldened to try his luck, as perhaps any other adventurer would in the troubled waters of Pakistan.


The problem is that the odds against Mr Musharraf may be stacked higher than he thinks. Among the two major parties, the Pakistan People's Party, with whom he had once cut a 'deal', is hardly looking forward to his return. It may double the PPP's problems on the National Reconciliation Ordinance issue. The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) has never made any effort to hide its hostility towards him and wants him tried in court. The worst part is that the other factions of the Pakistan Muslim League, particularly the Pakistan Muslim League (Qaid), which had been the king's party, no longer want to have anything to do with him. There are probably too many skeletons in the cupboard. The PML(Q), in fact, has merged with PML(Functional) under the leadership of Pir Pagara, who is believed to be close to the army. In other words, Mr Musharraf can no longer hope for unstinted support from the military, which has distanced itself from him and is, evidently, working on its own designs. Nevertheless, the fact that a former military dictator is seeking a return to political power through the democratic route should be seen as a statement of sorts on the changed political paradigms in Pakistan. Making a naked bid for power is no longer fashionable.









Unfortunately, it was no longer possible to take a boat this time; the passage which took four weeks on P&O SS Strathmore then took eight hours on British Airways this time.


In 1956 as now, Britain had a Conservative government; Winston Churchill, who led it through World War II, had resigned as prime minister the year before and given way to Anthony Eden, probably the most handsome prime minister of Britain in the last century. He was reputed to have inherited his looks from his mother, Frances Grey. But he was known to have a short temper — which led Rab Butler, his rival in the Conservative Party, to call him half-mad baronet, half-beautiful woman. He was not a great speaker. But I had no way of knowing this, for there was no television, at least not within my reach in Cambridge, in 1956.


In any case, I was strongly anti-conservative, since the Conservative Party was the party of Winston Churchill, the last imperialist, who called Gandhiji the naked faqir. My hero was Aneurin Bevan, whom I heard in St Mary's Church soon after I reached Cambridge. I am not sure he said something like that in the speech I heard, but in a speech he gave just about then, he said, "Sir Anthony Eden has been pretending that he is now invading Egypt in order to strengthen the United Nations. Every burglar of course could say the same thing, he could argue that he was entering the house in order to train the police. So, if Sir Anthony Eden is sincere in what he is saying, and he may be, he may be, then if he is sincere in what he is saying then he is too stupid to be a prime minister."


He started his life as a miner — he went down a coal mine when he was 12. He had an engaging Welsh accent spiced with a stammer (we Indians are supposed to have a Welsh accent). As minister of health in the 1940s, Bevan built up the British national health service. Bevan knew where he stood; he once said, "We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over." Churchill hated his guts; on various occasions he called Bevan the merchant of discourtesy, the minister of disease, and a squalid nuisance. In his enormous history of World War II, he quoted Bevan extensively and critically, but did not take his name. Bevan had no such qualms. He once said that Churchill was a man suffering from petrified adolescence. Another time he said, "He [Churchill] never spares himself in conversation. He gives himself so generously that hardly anyone else is permitted to give anything in his presence."


He did not think much of my tribe of economists either. For all his brilliance, Bevan was considered too volatile, and lost the election to the leadership of Labour Party in 1955 to Hugh Gaitskell; it was about him that Bevan said in 1951: "It has been perfectly obvious on several occasions that there are too many economists advising the Treasury, and now we have the added misfortune of having an economist in the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself". On another occasion, he had this to say about Gaitskell: "I know that the right kind of leader for the Labour Party is a kind of desiccated calculating-machine who must not in any way permit himself to be swayed by indignation. If he sees suffering, privation or injustice, he must not allow it to move him, for that would be evidence of the lack of proper education or of absence of self-control. He must speak in calm and objective accents and talk about a dying child in the same way as he would about the pieces inside an internal combustion engine."


That was half a century ago. While I was in Britain this time, another campaign was on in the Labour Party. The contestants were two brothers, David and Ed Miliband. Both were competing for the leadership of the party, which fell vacant after Gordon Brown led it to a defeat in the general election this year and resigned. They are both sons of Polish immigrants. Their grandparents met in Belgium, whence they migrated to Britain. It is like two Bangladeshi brothers becoming leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Both grew up in north London, and went to "comprehensive" schools — the British name for government schools. Then they both went to Corpus Christi College in Oxford, and read politics, philosophy and economics — the standard arts degree course Oxford offers. David, who is four years older, got excellent results in his school leaving examinations, and got a First in Oxford. He then went and did a Master's degree in politics in Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Ed finished more modestly with an MSc in economics from London School.


Both were active in the Labour Party, and were rewarded when it came to power in 1997. David became head of Tony Blair's policy unit; he won a seat in the 2001 election, and became minister in the cabinet office (what we call principal secretary in our government) in 2004. The same post was given to Ed when Gordon Brown became prime minister in 2007; David was made foreign secretary.


In January 2009, he came to India, and was taken to spend a night by Rahul Gandhi in Shivkumari Kori's hut in Simara village. When he met our foreign minister, he greeted him with a cheerful "Hi, Pranab!" which upset the extremely honourable minister no end. He made the obvious point that the best antidote to the terrorist threat in the long term was cooperation: "Although I understand the current difficulties, resolution of the dispute over Kashmir would help deny extremists in the region one of their main calls to arms, and allow Pakistani authorities to focus more effectively on tackling the threat on their western borders." Indians, in the government as well as in the media, went berserk.


It goes without saying that David was not diplomatic as Secretary of State; I doubt if he was any more in his subsequent career. Ed is more of a politician; he won the election because he got the support of trade unions, which are a power in the Labour Party. But David is a rare politician: he does not let conventions cloud his thinking, and he says what he thinks. Long may he continue to do so.








The 19th Commonwealth Games have been inaugurated, and, hopefully, the horror of putting them together is behind us. At the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, on the evening of October 3, a full house witnessed the opening ceremony while the rest of India watched an ostensibly 'live' relay on television. But 'live' it was not, and the staggered transmission killed the real event for the viewers. I could hear the loud crackers and fireworks that ended the extravaganza while the small screen was showing some ridiculous dance number. In 2010, with India announcing itself an emerging economic and political power, this is unacceptable and rather silly.


The evening began with the magnificent drummers from across the many regions and cultural spectrums of India. The perfect start was spoilt by a slow and dull rendering ofSwagatham. After that, we — the television viewers who had stayed home deliberately — did not get to know the sequence of events because we were shown endless, badly-designed adverts interspersed with a carelessly crafted patchwork of Indian 'culture'. The presentation was clichéd and lacked the vitality of our young and agile nation.


To think that the choreographer must have been handsomely paid to put together this unsophisticated natak makes one want to scream with rage. From the organizers and managers to the contractors and the culture czars, quality was in short supply among all. The money spent for what was delivered was also humungous. Babudom seems to have overwhelmed culture.




We are such a vibrant nation. We create some of the most inventive music, dance and fusion. We have thriving and vibrant folk traditions that are the bedrock of our cultural ethos. Our classical legacies are unmatched. Yet, we pick and present the same old boring lot who spend their time lobbying for a place in the sun, grabbing all the plum spots that showcase India. The babu dispenses largesse and, therefore, if you cannot win over the babu, you will drown. The opening ceremony defined the status quo we are wallowing in and from which we need to extricate ourselves if we are to fly and take the lead. We must unshackle ourselves from what has been the norm for decades of State sponsorship. Till then, the dancers will trip on wires and fall down.


Here I have to say that what Sheila Dikshit has managed to do, after being pulled in at the last moment by the government to eradicate the problems that had afflicted preparations in the Games Village, was a feat extraordinaire. The applause for Dikshit every time her name was mentioned in one of the speeches made one proud. The chief minister needs proper statehood for Delhi. The fact that she is not the single nodal point of reference, but is the face of the State is most unfair and ridiculous. This leads to the creation and perpetuation of corruption, politicking and a complete lack of accountability, with each department pointing accusing fingers at another. The Delhi Development Authority, Municipal Corporation of Delhi, New Delhi Municipal Council, law enforcement agencies and so on must come under one head. Otherwise, Delhi will die.


As citizens of this ancient and layered city, all we can do is hope that the powers-that-be rewrite the mandate for the governance and protection of Dilli, the soul of India. It has grown and become the symbolic representation of India, and needs, therefore, to set fresh standards for life and inclusive living. And, if the NDMC area, where the 'rulers' reside, needs to be under the jurisdiction of the Central government — for reasons best known to it — then it should be separated from the larger state. But let us not destroy what is a fine and composite city.









There are common elements in the personalities of Barack Obama and Manmohan Singh. There are also parallels in their performances. Both are cerebral, with little public sense of humour and no apparent capacity for expressing emotion. They are innately polite and gentlemanly. They do not appear to enjoy or practice 'public' politics. And both respond to harsh words about themselves with rational argument.


Obama swept into power on the wave of his lofty vision of change. A great orator and writer, with a mastery of the English language, he raised the hopes and aspirations of millions across the world. He articulated a persuasive vision of the goodness of ordinary people and their desire to work together. He had never held any executive position in government or outside it. He was catapulted to the most powerful job in the world by his charisma. There has never been any allegation against, or scandal about, him. He has a young and happy family. He claims strong religious beliefs and is a practicing Christian.


Obama came to power when the nation was in the throes of the worst economic crisis since World War II. In addition, it was mired in two wars, with increasing numbers of American soldiers dying. The United States of America was in huge debt, primarily to China, and had to bend its opinions to not upset its principal creditor. The festering Israel-Palestine dispute, in which the US had always taken a consistently pro- Israel stance, had corroded the feelings of Muslims and many others towards US administrations.


Manmohan Singh succeeded Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and was not the natural choice for prime minister. Sonia Gandhi, his party president, was his sponsor and boss. In 'private' politics, he had been successful, having held top economic positions under different prime ministers and even parties. He had never won an election and is a member of the Rajya Sabha. He is not a charismatic leader like Obama, nor has he painted visions of a future India. His government's policies have brought change — the recognition of India as a nuclear power, policies for inclusive growth, continuing attempts to reach out to Pakistan and China, a massive infrastructure construction programme using innovative public-private partnerships for funding it, path-breaking laws ensuring the rights to information, education, health and food. While many of these policies are credited to Sonia Gandhi and her National Advisory Council, Singh can take exclusive credit for the agreement with the Bush administration to remove India's ostracism by the Nuclear Suppliers Group. His personal integrity is also well known.


Under the US system, the president is all-powerful in his cabinet, but much tempered by the Senate and the Congress while passing legislations and making appointments. Singh, in his cabinet, is the first among equals but many prime ministers had large popular followings and so were very powerful. Or they combined the job of prime minster with being the head of the Congress Party. Despite not having a large popular electoral base, Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao enjoyed unquestioned obedience from others in his party and ministry. With Singh, there is not such an acceptance. His authority is further diminished by his subservience to Sonia Gandhi, especially since she abdicated her chance to be prime minister for him. Further erosion of authority was caused by his leading a disparate coalition of parties (inside and outside the government) having little in common with one another. Singh's gentle personality also appears to reduce his ability to impose his views on his ministers.


The party reluctantly accepts Singh because their unquestioned leader, Sonia Gandhi, and her children want it to be so. This leads to powerful Congressmen expressing dissent with the government and ministries, and to ministers disagreeing in public with State policies. Obama does not have this problem. However, in recent months, as his ratings declined and the Republicans sabotaged many of his initiatives, Obama failed to secure the support of Democrat leaders. His cabinet has no choice but to follow him. In tackling the recession, Obama has not been sufficiently forceful. Unemployment remains high. He fought the health reform battle with Republicans and antagonized many voters who wanted him to pay more attention to domestic economic woes. Obama declared a date for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan without indicating how he would strengthen the war-torn nation.


Singh used up his political credit for the nuclear deal but the nuclear liability bill is bound to undergo changes to satisfy equipment suppliers. The bureaucracies remain ineffective — take, for instance, the fiasco over the Commonwealth Games. As a top bureaucrat for almost 30 years, Singh could have transformed the bureaucracy. He has, to an extent, made people aware of issues in energy, growth and climate change, kept alive a closeness with the US while retaining the traditional Indo-Russian relationship, and introduced social programmes to further development policies. He has been unsuccessful in improving law and order and in responding to militancy and terrorism.


It is difficult to evaluate the Obama presidency as yet. He has avoided a deeper recession, although unemployment remains high. He has radically reformed healthcare and unemployment insurance, engaged in greater consultation with friendly nations, initiated global actions on climate change, and set a deadline for disengagement from Afghanistan. Still, Obama might lose his party's control over legislatures. He is yet to raise savings rates, cut external debts and defuse Israel's militancy towards the Arabs. He must deal with the belligerent Republicans and come up with a strategy to be elected for a second term.


There is still time for both leaders to change the gloomy prospects for their governments. Else we must wonder if cerebral gentlemen are suited to lead large and complex nations.








Six decades ago, amidst strife and bloodshed, this country was divided on religious grounds. Millions were butchered. To call it a massacre would be to diminish the horror. I would often rummage through envelopes in my father's study, where my mother had hidden photographs of little hills of dead bodies piled up like meat to auction in lots. Hill after hill of corpses from slaughter in the Punjab.


No matter how politically incorrect it might sound, it has always been easier to provoke Muslims to react to religious causes and be converted into fearless fanatics willing to die for their cause, than followers of any other faith. It is a quality that has been exploited for as long as I can remember, right to this very day, not just in India but around the world. Add to this the stupid semantics of an egotistical Home Minister who conjures up palatable phrases like " saffron terror" and you have grounds for the spread of full-blown malice, mayhem and blood-curdling hatred. It has to stop. Perhaps it will, now.


What makes the recent high court judgment significant and truly Indian, holistic and vedantic, is that it respects life, humanity, faith and a harmonious co-existence of peoples and communities. It takes India from darkness to light — tamaso ma jyotirgamaya — and reveals an ultimate reality, from asatya to satya. Forty-seven years ago, instead of pussyfooting around stark realities and pandering to myopic politicians, India should have had a common civil code for all its citizens. We created differences from the word 'go' and now look over our shoulders to blame someone else for the tragic fallout. Thousands of families mourn because we treated an innate problem simplistically. But today there can be a new beginning if we rationally and lovingly gather and strive to bring the Muslims and Hindus of India together as children of one motherland.


This is a divine moment, granted to us by fate, and we must grab the opportunity to bury our hate and prejudices. We must capitalize on this moment of history to embrace one another with a passion and caring that no one will ever be able to take away from us. Our bonding should be honest and firm so that no scheming deceivers have the courage to manipulate our trust and tear us apart again.


If you think I'm being idealistic, sure, I am. What else should we be? Has fanatical pragmatism and the pursuit of economic power to conquer the world with wile and money got us anywhere? There can only be one truth and it is that we are all children of divine providence, brothers and sisters one and all, with no right to divide humanity into colours and ethnicities and claim the superiority of one race, culture or belief over another.


With this judgment, I hope that all our so-called secularist hotshots will shut up once and for all. I am talking about those who appear tirelessly and repeatedly on television as experts on topics as diverse as homosexuality, air traffic control and the rising cost of onions, while our peasants slave, starve and commit suicide, our brethren lie with street dogs, uncared for in puddles of urine in filthy hospital corridors, and our women still burn in backward communities, and die of social torture. All this while we analyse the pros and cons of slumdogs and corrupt politicians, game managers, and cricket's bookmakers and fixers — all spawned in India. The 'Made in India' tag is beginning to smell foul.


And, while the nation is in the process of puking over expenditures in Delhi, in a land of homeless and hapless 'Hari' jans, our political warlords and this stinking government are about to reap more benefits and make more money by dividing us into castes. Putting labels of disgrace on all of us, like the Nazis did to the Jews, at a time in history when we must fight to remove all such stigmas from a society already burdened withbrahminic superstitions and mind-bending ideologies. If we can settle the issue of Ayodhya as philosophically as we have,we must also banish the caste system with the same firmness of purpose and launch a mass non-cooperation movement to prevent the new census from perpetuating what must be wiped out once and for all.


When the census workers turn up, I recommend we all put down harijan — as we surely are. But the fact is, the Hindu-Muslim bhai bhai emotion will take some time to sink into our ravaged, polluted psyches. We have looked at one another with suspicion and disrespect for a long time. But our children are not being born into the prejudices we grew up with, so it would really be disgraceful if we opened their eyes to differences that should be buried forever.


In time, Ayodhya will haunt us like a myth. Different stories will be told of what once happened there. Some tales will frighten us, some amaze and some appal. But that's what stories are for.


I pray that Ayodhya becomes the burial ground of hatred. Let us now, on this once-ruddy land, sow seeds of love, peace and harmony that generations hereafter will feed and prosper on. And let the once-bloodied waters of the Saryu sparkle anew and flow into our hearts and lands to bring fulfilment. And I pray that Ayodhya becomes a pilgrimage glorifying those who united amidst disunity, spread hope where there was hopelessness, and made the journey from intellectual and spiritual darkness to enlightenment, from senseless death to eternal peace — amritamgamaya. May the rainbows of promises rest eternally on our shoulders. Let everything we get befit this sacred motherland of ours: India — Hindustan.


"Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being." These were the words of Black Elk. And they called him an Indian.





******************************************************************************************DECCAN HERALD





The spectacular opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi on Sunday has put some confidence back into the conduct of the Games. The opening event was befitting an international event, though comparisons with the Olympic Games may be inappropriate.  The Games were unveiled without a hitch and this may have put to rest many doubts and reservations. Spectators who thronged the stadium and the millions who watched the event from their homes had much to cheer about the spectacle that unveiled when the elemental India presented itself to the world in all its best colours, shapes and movements. It also gave glimpses of a rising and changing India, putting into the shade many of the unsavoury controversies and scandals that marked the run-up to the games in the country and abroad.

The attention should now shift to the event as such, to the tracks and fields, the swimming pools and other venues where over 7,000  sportsmen from all over the world will try to excel themselves and others by testing their physical prowess and mental stamina. New records are bound to be set and limits of endurance will be tested. India is going into the Games with its largest contingent in history and Indian athletes hope to cash in on 'home advantage.' It had to be content with 50 medals in the last edition of the Games, a tally not to be proud of when the country's demographic strength and talents are taken into consideration. There is hope for a much better performance, especially in events like wrestling, boxing, weightlifting, archery, tennis and the like. There is bound to be stiff competition in most events, though some of the best known sportsmen in the world are not present in Delhi.

The passing of the opening ceremony without a blemish is only a small part of the challenge. The security radar should be on maximum alert during coming 10 days. There should not be an organisational failing of any kind till the last athletes and officials leave Delhi. A successful holding of the Games will, however, not obliterate the organisational inadequacies and the scandals of gigantic proportions that brought shame on the country in the last few weeks. The guilty persons should be made answerable and severely punished so that such things do not recur. But for the present the Games should take precedence over all else.








Israel's refusal to extend a freeze on construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank has plunged peace talks in a crisis. Frustrated by the Israeli intransigence on the matter, the Palestinians are said to be considering walking out of the talks. It would be unfortunate if the Palestinians do so. After all, the two sides returned to engage in direct talks after almost two years, the last round having collapsed in December 2008 when Israel launched a military offensive on the Gaza Strip. The talks provided the two sides with a rare opportunity to settle the protracted conflict. However, it is not the Palestinians that are responsible for the rupture. Israel is well aware that its construction of settlements on Palestinian land is illegal under international law. Its refusal to extend the moratorium on settlement construction indicates the contempt with which it treats the talks process as well as international law and world opinion.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that renewing the settlement ban will fracture the ruling pro-settlement coalition. However, even if his right wing allies part ways with him should he renew the settlement ban, he could work on acquiring the support of the Kadima party. The question is whether he is serious about finding a negotiated settlement or is he using the fracas over the settlements to wriggle out of the US-sponsored talks.

There is a possibility of a surge in violence on the ground should the talks collapse. Some have warned too that it could prove to be the last straw on the camel's back. It could prompt the Palestinians to go ahead with a unilateral declaration of independence. President Abbas has ruled out the possibility of such a move at this juncture but with Israeli intransigence on the settlement issue deepening Palestinian frustration, he could find himself up against a mass upsurge. It is time that Israel realised that its stubborn refusal to work towards the creation of a Palestinian state whose borders are based on the 1967 ceasefire lines will unleash forces that will become hard to contain. Netanyahu must reach out to other parties for support and extend the ban on illegal settlements. It is important that he show commitment to the peace process. As the 'honest broker' in the talks, the US needs to pull up its ally, Israel, to keep the talks on track.







Whether a compromise will in fact be reached or not, the prospect of a negotiated sett-lement might now appear relatively more attractive.



Wise words were spoken this past week. Sometimes we are so filled with anger and bitterness over the perceived wrongs of history that, enveloped in fog, we see the past but dimly and are unable to recognise the future. On the eve of the long-awaited Ayodhya verdict of the Allahabad high court on Sept 30, there were appeals for calm all round as the future interrogated the past.

Even the most ardent contestants have thus far largely responded constructively to an unexpected but remarkable judgment. The verdict has steered a path between faith, history, practice and possession to open a door to a harmonious settlement and reconciliation.

The two-to-one majority ruling is that a mosque was not built by demolishing a temple on Babar's orders, but was erected on the site of a ruined Hindu structure whose provenance as a temple is contested. Hence the property be now divided with a third going each party: to the Hindus (the land under the former central dome where the idols lie), the Muslims (within the inner courtyard) and the Nimrohi Akhara (within the outer courtyard where the Ram Chabutra and Sita ki Rasoi are located).

The critical finding, articulated by Justice S U Khan is that for centuries, and long before the matter became subject to litigation, Hindus and Muslims had in a real sense shared and indeed worshiped alongside one another within the same disputed premises. If then, why not again now is the unspoken premise of the majority judgment.

The judgment has been criticised by some scholars as being based on unproven historical evidence advanced by the Archaeological Survey of India which allegedly drew unfounded conclusions from site diggings. Others have expressed concern that the court has departed from historical facts and legal processes to affirm certitudes based on faith. This is not quite so. Justice Khan clearly says that it was only after the mosque was built that Hindus began to identify it with Ramjanamsthan while Justice Agarwal ascribes the area under what was the masjid's central dome as the Ramjanamsthan only as "per faith and belief of the Hindus". His observation is descriptive, not juristic. Justice Khan further makes it plain that "As far as the title suit of a civil nature is concerned, there is no room for historical facts and claims",  including claims based on faith. Only Justice Sharma took the line that faith renders the spot where the idols now lie as the Ramjanamsthan, a juristic person and a deity.

It would appear that there will be an appeal to the supreme court but only after the high court's prescribed three month cooling off period, during which the status quo will be maintained. It does not follow that any last minute compromise sought prior to the verdict precludes attempts at a compromise today despite initial statements to the contrary. 

A new situation

This is because the parties now confront an entirely new situation. Earlier, the judgment was not known. Now with each side having got a third part of the land under dispute, an appeal could conceivably declare in favour of one party or the other. Half a loaf being better than no bread, there is now reason to be more compromising than before. Whether a compromise will in fact be reached is another matter. But the prospect of a negotiated settlement might now appear relatively more attractive.

Meanwhile, the criminal act of deliberately destroying the Babri Masjid on Dec 6, 1992, cannot be forgotten. The Liberhan Commission has framed the charges. The guilty must be tried and punished expeditiously, unlike what happened when the idols were conspiratorially planted under the central dome of the Masjid on a cold December night in 1949. Justice in this separate but adjunct matter is essential to bring closure to the Mandir-Masjid dispute that has dragged on for centuries.

Something of the bigger story Chidambaram mentioned was manifest on the morning of the judgment when the prime minister inaugurated the monumental Unique Identification Number 'Aadhar' programme in a remote Maharashtra village. He handed over a 12-digit number to a poor, unknown farm labourer, Sonawane, making her an identifiable person and an equal citizen of India with rights, privileges, hope and a numbered address that guarantees her a future.

Like a hitherto excluded wretch in a song of yore, Sonawane too can proudly proclaim that "I am somebody, not a nobody, nor just anybody. And everybody knows my name". Everybody now knows Sonawane as she has a numbered name and address and can no more be treated as a nobody and fobbed of her rights. That surely marks a revolution! Sceptics may entertain doubts about the UID solution. But Aadhar will prevail, with millions of Sonawanes marching to a new future under its banner. The road is long; but she now has the means to overcome.

Then, on Sept 29, the supreme court freed a Manipur editor from detention stating that "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." This principle has wide application. A boisterous, jostling, protesting, growing India confronts a 'million mutinies' of multiple transitions by heterogeneous groups fast maturing from tradition to modernity. For such a country, security in many ways comes from and is reinforced by liberty.








A dialogue between the military, NLD and ethnic representatives is the only way to solve problems in Myanmar.



Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, recently said the world must exercise 'utmost vigilance' to ensure the approaching elections in Myanmar are free and fair.

We are disappointed in such comments, which focus on the election as something important for our country, as something worth waiting and watching for, although this election is not the solution for Myanmar.

The elections, scheduled for Nov 7, are designed to legalise military rule under the 2008 constitution, which was written to create a permanent military dictatorship in our country.

After the election, the constitution will come into effect, a so-called civilian government will be formed by acting and retired generals who all are under the military commander-in-chief, and the people will legally become the subjects of the military.

Our party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), and our ethnic allies have refused to accept the regime's constitution and have decided to boycott the elections. The military regime's constitution and severely restricting election laws demonstrated to all of us the true intention the regime has for this election.

Undemocratic process

We refuse to abandon our aspirations for democracy in Myanmar and give the regime the legitimacy it wants for its elections. With millions of people of Myanmar supporting our position, we hoped the international community would understand the regime's intentions as clearly as we do and pressure the regime to stop its unilateral and undemocratic process.

The United Nations demanded the regime commit itself to an all-parties inclusive, participatory, free and fair process through political dialogue with democratic opposition and representatives of ethnic minorities. But now an important phrase — 'all-parties inclusive' — is surprisingly excluded from their statements and speeches.

Although Pillay urged the world to exercise 'utmost vigilance', there is no need to wait until the Election Day to make a judgment. The election commission was appointed by the regime and filled with loyalists who unilaterally decided that many candidates are ineligible to run. The electoral laws and by-laws impose severe restrictions on political parties. Thousands of political prisoners — including our leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi — are not allowed to participate in the election or be members of the parties.

The regime's prime minister and cabinet ministers have switched to civilian dress, transformed their mass organisation into their political party, and are campaigning with the use of state properties, resources, funds and threats. The election commission is shamelessly violating its own rules in favour of the prime minister's party and other proxy parties of the regime.

Unfortunately, some European countries are not only watching the regime's elections, but also supporting them. They discussed with us their belief that the election is the only game in town, and suggested that we, the National League for Democracy, should participate. When we explained our rationale for not legitimising military rule, they turned to others and now help them to make their way in the regime's election game. 

Even though some democratic parties have European support, their chances of winning seats in the election are very slim, as more restrictions on their campaign activities are revealed each day. The regime is determined to capture almost all of the contested seats in the national and state parliaments by use of fraud and threats.

With 25 per cent of the seats in parliament reserved for the military, it is more and more clear that almost all the seats will be controlled by the military and its cronies. Even if some lucky candidates get elected, they will have no authority to promote change. The parliament has no power to form the government, no authority to legislate military affairs, and no right to reject the president's appointees and budget.

Meaningful political dialogue between the military, the NLD led by Aung San Suu Kyi, and ethnic representatives is the only way to solve problems in Myanmar peacefully.

The military has no desire to talk. But if the international community seriously exercises strong and effective pressure on the regime, the combination of pressure from outside and peaceful resistance inside the country will force the regime to come to the dialogue table.

I wish that our friends in Europe would abandon their dream of expecting something impossible from the election, and start taking serious action against the regime with the aim of starting a dialogue. They should begin by creating a UN commission of inquiry to investigate human rights violations in Myanmar.

(The writer is a founder of Myanmar's National League for Democracy party)







The silence of patience is when you listen quietly to sickness report of the elderly.


Animals, Henry David Thoreau believed, were great companions, for they endured silence and never demanded entertainment. "The man I meet with is not often so instructive as the silence he breaks," Thoreau quipped, obviously bored with frivolous conversation. Silence, defined by some, is seen as being the most companionable form of good manners, more so when one is in doubt about the appropriate thing to say.

Ivan Illich, in an essay of 1956, 'the Eloquence of Silence,' pays tribute to various forms of silence. Silences must be acquired through a delicate openness to them. Silence has its pauses and hesitations, its rhythm and expressions and inflections; its durations and pitches, and times to be and not to be. First among the classification of silence is the silence of the pure listener, the silence of deep interest. This is threatened by another silence — the silence of disinterest and indifference.

The silence of patience is when you listen quietly to the sickness report of the elderly or the injured. The silence of love is when the involved are exploring possibilities of togetherness, albeit through mere visual locks. This form is emphasised further when in company of others.

In the silence of prayer courageous words of request begin hesitatingly but progress steadily. The silence of obedience is beyond bewilderment and questions; it is a silence beyond the possibility of an answer. The silence of triumph bears the smug heaviness of "I told you so" when one is proven right about predictions and warnings. The silence of a critique is felt in the thickness of disapproval as when a junior keys in a write-up!
The deadly silence has neither the deadness of a stone, indifferent to life, nor the deadness of a pressed flower, memory of life. It is the death after life, a final refusal to live. The silence of finality is one which has said everything because there is nothing more to say, a silence beyond a final 'yes' or a final 'no.'

The silence of apprehension is what many of us experienced recently, on the day of the Ayodhya verdict. The perceptible silence one hour before the judgment must have been a phenomenon by itself. This list is by no means complete, yet the final line belongs to Baltasar Gracian, "silence is frequently misinterpreted but it is never misquoted."









Talkbacks (8)

The state wants Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire ejected from Israel.

After permitting Maguire ample opportunity to make her case, the Central District Court ruled last week in the state's favor and the Supreme Court on Monday appeared poised to do the same.

We applaud this stand – and not because of Maguire's outrageous comparison in 2004 of Israel's purported nuclear capability to Auschwitz's gas chambers, nor because of her absurd, reprehensible accusation made in court Monday that Israel is an "apartheid state" perpetrating "ethnic cleansing against Palestinians."

Rather, Maguire should be deported from Israel for undertaking actions that undermine Israel's ability to protect itself.

MAGUIRE, WHO at 32 was the youngest-ever peace prize winner when she received it in 1976 for working to end sectarian violence in her native Northern Ireland, was intending to lead a delegation called the Nobel Women's Initiative that is visiting Israel and the West Bank between September 28 and October 5.

Maguire is a woman with considerable merits who once acted courageously and peacefully to help end conflict in her own country. But her actions on behalf of Palestinians has revealed a sorrowful dearth of moral sensibilities.

She was first deported from Israel on September 30, 2009, after she took part in an attempt to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. She and the other activists from the Free Gaza Movement attempted to forcibly prevent Israel from defending itself against Hamas-controlled Gaza via the blockade, which has never prevented the transferral of food, medicine and other necessities that cannot be turned into rockets, mortars or other deadly weapons and aimed at Israeli civilians.

All humanitarian aid on board Maguire's ship, the Arion, was promptly transferred to Gaza after a security check, as is all other humanitarian aid provided by foreigners to Gaza's residents, along with truckloads of Israeli aid provided weekly.

When the Arion was stopped by the IDF, Maguire was notified that she would be forbidden to enter Israel for 10 years. Nevertheless, this June, a few days after the fatefulMavi Marmara interception, Maguire was once again on board a ship – the MV Rachel Corrie – attempting to violate Israel's blockade of Gaza. Once again she was notified by Israeli officials that she was banned from entry for a decade.

Yet last week Maguire ignored Israel's sovereign right to decide who crosses its borders, insincerely claiming she did not know she was banned; she might have had the honesty to make plain that she refused to respect Israel's sovereignty.

If Maguire and her fellow activists truly desire to improve the lives of Gazans, they should send their humanitarian aid in coordination with Israel. More importantly, they should put pressure on Hamas and the other radical Islamists who control the Gaza Strip to stop senseless ballistic attacks on Israeli towns and villages, kibbutzim and moshavim.

They should also insist that Hamas provide Gaza's citizens with a stable, responsible leadership that respects human rights and religious freedom, as well as that it accept the UN-recognized right of the Jewish people to self-determination and political sovereignty in their historical homeland.

But Maguire, who has called for Israel to be removed from the UN, seems more intent on enabling Israel's terrorist enemies.

THIS NEWSPAPER has argued in the past that even the most rabid critics of Israel – such as Noam Chomsky, who was denied entry by Israel in May – should be allowed to come here to voice their opinions. We trust the ability of free-thinking, informed individuals to distinguish between baseless and credible narratives and claims.

But in Maguire's case, the issue is different. Those who work to forcibly break the blockade on Gaza are essentially seeking to endanger the lives of Israeli citizens, by making it easier for Hamas to obtain the rockets and mortars it insistently fires into our territory.

Israel can and must use its hard-earned and well-deserved sovereignty to stop people like Maguire – people who try to exploit charges of a "humanitarian crisis" in Gaza in order to empower Hamas terrorists.








Whether or not the talks fail, the peace camp here and abroad should fully support the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state next summer.Pessimism," "doomed to fail" and "waste of time" – these words and phrases litter the reporting and blogging on the current talks between Israel and the Palestinians. One can only hope to be pleasantly surprised and hear that by the end of next summer they will be deemed a success. But seeing as how the pessimists seem to be a majority, now may just be the time to think of creative ways to end the stalemate.

One possibility would be for a third party to change the rules of the game. This would fundamentally change the status quo and force the two sides to act accordingly.

Hints about it have been popping up in the media in the past few weeks, but no dares say it out aloud, for various reasons.

Yossi Alpher, a former Mossad executive, points us in the right direction in the oped "Where the negotiations could be useful" (August 29) published in this paper : "Where the negotiations could conceivably be useful (and safer) for all concerned is if the American sponsors steer them toward reinforcing and facilitating the one success story they can point to: the Palestinian state-building effort in the West Bank... This in turn would ease the political endgame of international recognition for a Palestinian state – which is projected by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad for next August when, coincidentally or not, the administration and the Quartet want the new negotiations to be completed."

There it is, right under our noses. The talks are to conclude next summer and coincide with the end of Fayyad's two-year program, begun last August, to ready Palestine for statehood. Will he declare a state then, regardless of whether or not the talks succeed? Fayyad has already denied reports that he will, and surely if a state is to be announced – shouldn't President Mahmoud Abbas be running the show? Moreover, Abbas himself has clearly stated that a unilateral declaration is not on the agenda.

Can they even think of going ahead with such a move before any attempt at reconciliation with Hamas? These and many other questions remain unanswered.

Daoud Kuttab states in The Washington Post on September 7 that it is simply no longer relevant whether or not the talks produce a state: "If the talks fail because of Israeli obstructionism, Palestinians will have no choice but to declare their state unilaterally and hope the world will recognize it. Those Americans who witness Palestinian conduct in the negotiating room over the coming year will have to decide whether to recognize the state or keep this conflict festering."

IF THE talks do fail and there are increasing signs of a future American recognition of a state, the gridlock could begin to unravel.

Just two weeks ago at the UN, President Barack Obama said a Palestinian state could be attained by next year. Also, there have been reports of secret agreements between Obama and Fayyad concerning a future declaration.

Obviously, there is no way Obama can come out today and support such a move; the talks would have to officially fail first. There's also internal US political issues that must be taken into consideration, predominantly the looming midterm elections.

This is the time for the peace camp in Israel and abroad to jump on the wagon and begin applying pressure on the American administration to publicly approve a unilateral declaration, should the Palestinians choose to go down that route.

Such a declaration would prompt immediate reaction from both sides. These reactions, unfortunately, could also bring bloodshed, including violence between settlers and Palestinians, an Israeli incursion and/or annexation of land that would cut a future Palestinian state into unsustainable cantons, and numerous other unpredictable scenarios. Yet despite the risk of violence, the opportunity to finally break the gridlock is surely a better option than continuing the bloody status quo of more than 40 years.

Whether or not the talks fail, and whether Fayyad and Abbas can work out the differences between them, the next stage for the peace camp must be a global grassroots campaign demanding that the US administration, along with the European Union, recognize Palestinian intentions to declare a state next summer.

The grassroots movement must begin here and now, so that this declaration will not prove to be a damp squib, like past Palestinian declarations. It can start right here – on this piece of paper, through the blogosphere, Facebook, Twitter – all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Fayyad may claim a unilateral declaration is not on the agenda, but he's getting things ready on the ground for the summer of 2011.

Now all he needs is you, me and Obama.

The writer is a Tel Aviv-based journalist. He blogs at








Not only are laws being enforced with great prejudice to the benefit of the Palestinians, they are being enforced with great prejudice against the Jews.


A striking aspect of the so-called building freeze in Judea and Samaria that expired last week is that an enormous amount of construction went on throughout the last 10 months. The Arabs of Judea and Samaria were not only building without restrictions, the US, Europe and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf bankrolled much of their construction.

The presumptive purpose of the freeze was to prevent Israel from creating "facts on the ground" that would prejudice the outcome of the so-called peace talks with Fatah. This goal is justified on the basis of the Palestinian misinterpretation of a clause in the 1995 agreement between Israel and the PLO in which they agreed that "neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations."

The clause was never intended to refer to construction, and "neither side," of course, relates to both Israel and the Palestinians.

But since the agreement was signed, while the Palestinian misinterpretation has been widely adopted, only one side has been held to account.

Whereas every Jewish home built since 1995 has evoked a storm of international criticism, the Palestinians have built thousands upon thousands of buildings throughout the areas. They have done so in total disregard for planning and zoning ordinances and even the basic considerations of supply and demand. For instance, a motorist travelling from Jerusalem to Ma'aleh Adumim will pass hundreds of empty five-story buildings in Issawiya and other Arab neighborhoods built for the sole purpose of preventing Israel from connecting the two.

So too, Fatah-appointed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has been absolutely clear that the Palestinians are building the new city of Rawabi to "change the status" of Judea and Samaria and prepare the ground for the establishment of a state outside the framework of the negotiations.

As the Binyamin citizens' committee has warned, the Palestinians chose to locate the new city in the heart of the predominantly Jewish area to undermine the territorial contiguity of the Jewish communities there.

The situation in Judea and Samaria at the end of the moratorium is not what the participants in the global anti-Israel pileon would have us all believe. We do not have avaricious Jews gobbling up all available land at the expense of the guileless, disenfranchised Palestinians. And what is at stake with the end of the freeze is not the fate of the so-called peace process.

What we have is a situation in which there are two sets of rules – one for Arabs and one for Jews. Not only are Jews not given extraordinary rights, they are being denied what are supposed to be their inviolable rights to their private property. Not only are laws being enforced with great prejudice to the benefit of the Palestinians, they are being enforced with great prejudice against the Jews.

So what is at stake with the end of the freeze is not the fate of a future peace. What is at stake is the principle that Jews can expect minimal protection of their fundamental rights to their property from the Israeli government. And if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu manages to withstand the new tsunami of pressure from the Obama administration to reinstate the abrogation of Jewish rights, he will not be harming peace any more than if he bows to that pressure, he will advance the cause of peace.

A "peace" based on the nullification of Jewish rights is nothing more than a recipe for more war.

If Netanyahu manages to withstand US President Barack Obama's threats and harangues, all his action will do is maintain a bare minimum of protection for Jewish rights. That is, if he manages to keep his pledge to the Israeli people and not prolong the discriminatory freeze, he will have done the bare minimum to maintain Israel's commitment to the rule of law and liberal norms.

WHEN WE recognize that the demand for a moratorium on Jewish building is an issue of civil rights and the rule of law rather than an issue of peace, we recognize that the plight of the Jews in Judea and Samaria is little different from the plight of Jews throughout the country. Jews in the Negev, the Galilee and the Golan Heights face discrimination that is little different from that faced by the Jews of Judea and Samaria.

Take the plight of Yehuda Marmor, a third generation rancher in the Lower Galilee community of Yavniel with a herd of 220 cattle. For the past eight years, he and his ranch have been regularly attacked by a gang of Israeli Arab livestock thieves and squatters from the Bashir clan. The clan hails from the Arab villages around Moshav Tzipori some 40 kilometers from Yavniel.

Marmor alleges that he was shot by members of the clan while he was trying to prevent them from stealing his cattle in 2002. Six hours after he testified against them in court, 2,000 dunams of his grazing land were set ablaze. He has suffered from regular theft of his cattle every two to three months for the past eight years. Two years ago, seven kilometers of fences around his grazing land were destroyed.

Marmor has a thick stack of complaints he has filed against the Bashir clan. The police have closed investigations into all of them on the grounds of lack of public interest in the complaints or lack of evidence.

Marmor went to court to get a restraining order against the clan. The police have refused to enforce it.

A walk around Marmor's ranch shows that his land, which overlooks the Jezreel Valley along the Sea of Galilee, has clear military significance. As Jews like Marmor are increasingly leaving ranching and allowing Arab land thieves to overrun their properties due to lack of police protection or court enforcement of their rights, the need to defend those who remain expands by the day. Marmor is able to continue ranching due to the efforts of the volunteers from the New Israeli Guardsmen, a voluntary organization established three years ago by the sons of farmers and ranchers who banded together to protect their parents' livelihoods and lives in the face of police paralysis.

Or take Ilan Milles from Neveh Atib in the northern Golan Heights. For seven years, he worked to realize his dream of building a farmers' market at the entrance to the Mount Hermon National Park.

Milles received all the permits and licenses, raised the money and was all set to begin work earlier this year. But before his contractor could begin the job, the pro- Syrian Druse from neighboring villages decided they wanted the project for themselves.

So they threatened the contractor.

After repeated attempts to reach an accommodation with the Druse failed, Milles asked Regavim, a nonprofit group that lobbies government bodies to protect Jewish land rights, for help.

Regavim convinced the relevant ministries to permit him to move ahead with construction. Everything was set to go in May. But then, the police intervened.

Claiming that it would endanger the lives of construction workers, the police slapped a no work order on Milles the night before he was scheduled to break ground.

Regavim petitioned the High Court to force the police to protect Milles's property rights. This month the court ruled in his favor and construction is set to begin on November 1. Whether this is the end of the story is anyone's guess.

The court's decision is a welcome departure from its general practice. In its 2004 landmark ruling in the Ka'adan case, the court ruled that the state may not discriminate against Arabs in leasing land. This put an end to the establishment of Jewish communities throughout the Jewish state.

The ruling might have been justifiable on liberal grounds if it were applied across the board. However, it does not apply to Arabs.

The state continues to issue tenders for land leases to Arabs only. While the state actively develops Arab-only communities in the Negev and Galilee, Jews are barred from building Jewish communities even on lands owned by the Jewish National Fund – a private trust which is bound by its charter to only develop its lands for Jewish settlement.

When the nonenforcement of the criminal code against Arab livestock rustlers, land squatters, illegal builders and tax evaders is brought into the equation, we have a situation nationwide where there are two sets of rules: one for Jews and one for Arabs. Jews are denied their basic property rights and protection under the law, while Arabs are not only protected, they are immune from prosecution if they fail to abide by the law of the land.

The most bizarre and glaring example of this is the situation in Shimon Hatzadik neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem, otherwise known as Sheikh Jarrah. There, every Friday self-proclaimed liberals stage violent riots with local Arabs to try to transform the area into a Jew-free zone.

The Jews who live in there are not illegal squatters. They are the lawful owners of their properties who fought in the courts for years to have their ownership rights vindicated. What we see in Shimon Hatzadik every Friday are not peaceful demonstrations in favor of a discriminated against Arab minority. They are organized, violent assaults on the very notion of the rule of law. And these assaults are undertaken by a consortium of Arabs and leftist radicals who believe that Jews have no civil rights because they are Jews.

Facing these rioters is a Jerusalem municipality that is still smarting from the Obama administration's unprecedented assault last spring. That attack was precipitated by the Jerusalem planning board's decision to approve the construction of housing units in a Jewish neighborhood.

Today Mayor Nir Barkat is ignoring court orders to destroy dozens of illegal Arab buildings in eastern Jerusalem out of fear of the international outcry that would ensue.

The lesson of all of this is clear enough. As Israel faces the ire of the international hanging jury for refusing to reinstate the prohibition on Jewish building in Judea and Samaria, our citizens and our leaders need to make a decision. Will we take the necessary steps to protect and strengthen our liberal democracy where the rule of law is defended and the principle of equality before the law is upheld? Or will we bow to international pressure and allow the Jewish state to become an illiberal democracy-inname- only where the rights of Jews must be systematically denied?







We American Jews live with so many infantile fears, ancing in Hebron I felt liberated, free of fear and deeply grateful to the residents.


Israel is a magical country, but to experience one of its greatest wonders you have to travel to what the world calls the West Bank and the Bible calls Judea and Samaria. Its crown jewel is the city of Hebron, first capital of the Jewish people, and where its patriarchs and matriarchs are buried.

Many tourists skip Hebron, declaring it too dangerous, and indeed four Israelis were killed near there last month, and another two shot last week. But terrorists dare not determine whether me and my children make pilgrimages to Judaism's holiest sites.

The first thing you discover about the residents of Hebron, whom the world derisively describes as settlers – as if Jews living in their own ancient capital are newcomers – is their warmth and hospitality. I arrived with 20 guests and our host, a wise and dedicated communal activist named Yigal, prepared a feast. We ate in his succa, surrounded by a tranquility and quiet that I rarely experience. The night air was cool and enervating.

All around us children were playing, carefree, on pristine playgrounds. So many Jews in Hebron have been killed in terror attacks over the years, yet the residents in general, and the children in particular, live unafraid. They are also free from hatred. Even when their friends die, they mourn them, bury them, commemorate them but get on with their lives.

There are no calls for revenge, no mass demonstrations braying for Arab blood. Their response, rather, is to demonstrate, in the most peaceful manner, that they are there to stay. (And yes, I know all about Baruch Goldstein. My house in Oxford was firebombed with my children sleeping inside, just a few hours after he perpetrated his mass-murder. But his criminal abomination was committed alone, 17 years ago).

For nearly 1,000 years, the Islamic rulers of the Holy Land forbade Jews to enter theTomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, allowing them to climb only seven steps but beating them mercilessly if they rose any higher.

When Israel captured the tomb in 1967, Jewish pilgrims came swearing never again to be separated from their origins. Even amid the worst terror attacks, property values in Hebron and Kiryat Arba never decline. There are no fluctuations in the commitment to pray by the graves of those who gave the world monotheism.

Yet these residents have been demonized by the world. They face daily character assassination in the media by those who would decry their simple desire to walk in the footsteps of Abraham. World leaders regularly engage in defaming families whose only wish is to raise their children in the Judean hills of King David.

President Barack Obama rises at the UN and calls for a further moratorium on building in the settlements, as if it's a crime for peaceful people to have children and add rooms to warm and hospitable homes.

Worse, my close friends in Tel Aviv tell me they hate the "settlers" because their children are forced to "defend a bunch of fanatics who live surrounded by 100,000 Arabs."

I quickly remind them that, first, the residents of Hebron also serve in elite combat units; second, if a nation can't hold fast to the tombs of its ancestors (and remember that the tomb in its present form was constructed by King Herod 2,000 years ago from the very same stone as the Western Wall), then it scarcely deserves to call itself a people; three, I know many Jews, particularly in Britain, who wonder why they should have to raise money for the six million Jews who have "settled" in Israel, surrounded as they are by half a billion Arabs; and finally, give up Hebron and, as we discovered with Gush Katif and Sderot, you bring hostile forces to bear directly on Jerusalem.

ABRAHAM, at whose tomb I prayed with my children, is the father of all peoples, and so Arabs and Jews, who thus share both a celestial and a terrestrial father, must learn to live peacefully together. Neither group should be asked to abide a moratorium that stifles natural expansion. It is not the spiritual seekers of Hebron who threaten peace, but the death groupies of Hizbullah and Hamas, who seek to make Israel judenrein.

Just a few yards from where Shalhevet Pass, a 10-month-old infant, was shot and killed by a Palestinian sniper in March 2001, I danced with my children to celebrate Succot.

The streets of Hebron were alive with joyous residents dancing to the music of a mystical hippie band whose flowing locks and mesmerizing music set my soul alight.

I was electrified to be dancing in a city that in 1929 saw the savage massacre of 67 Jews and the destruction of nearly all the Jewish buildings.

We American Jews live with so many infantile fears, like the fear of not being able to keep up with the Joneses or suffering a decline in standards of living.

But dancing in Hebron I felt liberated, free of fear and deeply grateful to the residents who live without material extravagance, and who taught me that even in a place of stress and danger one can find inner tranquility.

The writer has just published Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.







Our international colleagues should be doing everything possible to promote and expand the conditions under which Israeli-Palestinian cooperation can take place.


Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of writing about the successful BIRAX scientific cooperation between Israeli and UK universities. The context was not only the promotion of intellectual cooperation, but also the response to those who would boycott scientific ties because of the political situation as it relates to Israel, the West Bank and the status of the Palestinians.

This week, we have another story of scientific cooperation threatened with boycott. The University of Johannesburg in South Africa threatened to cancel a scientific cooperation program with Ben-Gurion University – an agreement which was signed only one year ago, and which focuses on areas of cooperation in biotechnology and water purification, to the benefit of all.

At last week's meeting of the university senate in Johannesburg, a sort of compromise agreement was reached. An immediate boycott proposal was not passed, but the university made further cooperation and the renewal of the agreement dependent on the expansion of cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian universities.

The past 15 years have witnessed a great deal of scientific cooperation in diverse areas. I could spend the rest of this column outlining some of the joint projects which take place between Ben-Gurion faculty and both their Palestinian and Jordanian counterparts – be it in medicine, environmental protection and even overtly political issues such as human rights. But in doing so, I would be in danger of harming many of these programs.

In most cases, it is the Palestinian side which prefers to keep the project out of sight of the media. Important groups within Palestinian civil society, such as trade unions and academics, are highly critical of those who want to cooperate on a basis of equality when, in reality, there is no equality – political or economic. They are uncomfortable with the thought that through cooperation they are, de facto, legitimizing the occupation. Palestinian academics who work with Israelis find the political pressure to bow to the anti-intellectual logic of the boycott campaign difficult to deal with.

By declaring a long list of cooperative projects, I also fall into the trap of trying to prove myself (or the institution I represent) a "good Jew," one that can be legitimized for no other reason than the fact that I work and sympathize with the "other" side, am opposed to occupation and promote the universality of human rights and independence for all.

As much as I hold these positions, they are not, for me, a litmus test through which Israeli universities should, or should not, be made legitimate. Joint research is carried out for the intrinsic reason of producing knowledge, not so the researchers can be seen to be ideologically correct.

BOYCOTTS do nothing to promote the interests of peace, human rights or – in the case of Israel – the end of occupation. The "good Jew" response by BGU would accept the logic of the academic boycott, but would argue for an exception for BGU on the basis that it passed the political test – one which is only applied to Israel. In reality, last week's decision has given the pro-boycotters a sixmonth period to win additional supporters, legitimizing the idea that academic boycotts are justifiable.

And what about the countless attacks on Ben-Gurion University faculty from right-wing groups such as Im Tirtzu and IsraCampus, accusing us of dealing too much with Palestine- and occupation-related issues? These groups would like nothing better than to prevent Israeli-Palestinian cooperation.

The University of Johannesburg is, unwittingly, strengthening the hand of these ultranationalist groups and, ironically, making it even more difficult for cross-border dialogue and cooperation to take place. The boycott campaign strengthens the rejectionists on both sides, and weakens those building practical or political foundations for peace.

But even when there is a willingness to participate in joint ventures, it is not easy. Israeli academics enjoy working conditions which can only be dreamed of by their Palestinian colleagues. Meetings are never easy to arrange – Israelis are forbidden to enter Area "A" where most of the Palestinian universities are, and many are fearful of venturing into these areas even if they were allowed.

Palestinians coming to meetings in Israeli institutions have to apply for transit permits weeks in advance, and are often refused or left waiting until the last moment, when it is too late to make complex travel arrangements.

Those of us who believe it is important to advance scientific cooperation and build grassroots trust between the two scholarly communities should not fool ourselves into thinking that the conditions faced by the two groups are equal or symmetrical. They are not.

Israeli academics are all too often silent on the issue of access to higher education for Palestinian students. As Israeli academics who believe in cooperation, we should be the first to demand freedom of access for all Palestinian faculty and students to their own institutions and to institutions elsewhere in the world – with no more restrictions than those faced by us.

As in the case of BIRAX and the British universities, our international colleagues should be doing everything possible to expand the conditions under which Israeli- Palestinian cooperation can take place.

I invite my colleague Adam Habib, vice chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, to make good on his statement of last week, when he said: "We believe in reconciliation...We'd like to bring BGU and Palestinian universities together to produce a collective engagement that benefits everyone."

I can show him examples of where universities around the world are hosting groups of Israeli and Palestinian scholars who find it difficult to meet under local conditions.

Take, for example, the Olive Tree program at City University in London, where Israeli and Palestinian students receive scholarships to spend three years studying for undergraduate degrees and understanding each other. Or the Daniel Turnberg Travel Fellowship Fund, which supports young medical researchers from Israel, the West Bank, Jordan and Egypt who travel to the UK and spend a month in a university or hospital, where they meet experts in their field and plan future research collaborations.

Or next month's human rights workshop organized by the Crucible Center at the University of Roehampton, where Israeli and Palestinian scholars will discuss issues of common interest, beyond the boundaries of the conflict which prevents them from doing this at home.

Habib is welcome to choose the topic, the cooperating institutions and the relevant scholars. This would be a truly positive contribution by the University of Johannesburg to promoting the values it touted last week. And considering its own country, which was transformed into a new and equal society during the past two decades, who better to lead the world's academic community in trying to bring Israeli and Palestinian scholars together?

The writer is dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Ben-Gurion University.








The ZAKA chairman and founder reflects on the 10th anniversary of the outbreak of the second intifada.


Now, 10 years after the outbreak of the second intifada, I look back at that period and still find it difficult to believe. That was when I and my fellow ZAKA volunteers would go to bed fully dressed, with our shoes on and our emergency medical kits by our side. And, of course, that was when we hardly slept.

We were constantly listening to our beepers, waiting for the next call. We would run from suicide bombing to bus attack, from a shooting incident to a road accidents.

This was the atmosphere that defined those times and fixed the daily agenda. That was our life.

I understood that Israel was in such trouble and that, in this situation, anyone who wanted to help and contribute should do so. I understood that if we, as men of faith, had the strength to deal with such difficult scenes, then this was our place – at the scene of terror attacks, doing work that has to be done, work that can only be done by those who are fortified by their faith .

On several occasions, we would return home after working at a scene where entire families were wiped out, and we would see that the sun still shone and people still went about their daily business. We would rely on black humor, sometimes even bordering on cynicism, to get us through those dark times.

We relied on our families to help us return to some degree of normality.

We would also find ourselves dealing with difficult questions related to our faith. People would confront us and ask: "Why did it happen to this family? What did they do?" And I would reply: "You can ask me, but I have no answers."

AND THEN there were times when we really did break down. I can still remember the suicide bombing at the Sbarro pizza restaurant in the heart of Jerusalem in August 2001. We worked feverishly, trying to save those who were still alive and only then did we deal with the horrific carnage of death. With painstaking care, we cleared the scene, ensuring that every body part was collected, allowing a proper Jewish burial for all the victims.

It was then – and only then – that the full horror washed over me and my fellow ZAKA volunteers. We looked around and realized that we were literally standing in pools of blood, some three or four centimeters high. Here I was, in the center of Jerusalem, the beating heart of the State of Israel, at the iconic junction of King George Avenue and Jaffa Road, and I was standing in Jewish blood. Slowly, carefully, we collected the blood into four large barrels for burial with the 15 victims, seven of whom were children.

That image, of four barrels of Jewish blood in the center of Jerusalem, will never leave me.

With time came bitter experience. We were about 600 volunteers in ZAKA at that time, and we quickly began to organize ourselves into an ever more professional operation.

In the early days of the intifada, it took us 12-14 hours to complete our work at the site of a suicide bombing. We managed to get that down to three hours. We also learned forensics and identification techniques during those painful years – even the smallest parts can be the ones that result in a positive identification and therefore a burial.

At the time, I thought we were dealing with kavod hamet – honoring the dead. By the end, I realized that we were actually honoring the living, because a family whose loved one cannot receive a full Jewish burial has no rest. It is for them that we toiled.

The writer is chairman and founder of ZAKA, aHebrew acronym for Disaster Victims Identification. It was founded in 1989 and has grown into a UN-recognized international volunteer humanitarian organization with 1,500 volunteers. ZAKA specializes in lifesaving, rescue and recovery operations in Israel and around the world, including natural disasters such as the Haiti earthquake earlier this year.








A damaging ethos of 'welfarism' and distributive politics has come to dominate not only academia but our cultural, military and even our business elites.


At a recent conference at Tel Aviv University's School of Government, a gathering that was supposed to feature an academic discussion on the desired distribution of income to be derived from the finding of natural gas off our shores, was an example of how politics are taking over our universities. Sponsored by the New Israel Fund and three organizations affiliated with it, the conference espoused a political agenda whose conclusions were emblazoned on huge posters at the entrance. The "debate" it featured was a sham, giving voice mostly to those who supported its foregone conclusions and limiting the few opposing voices to three minutes each.

At the root of most ills – academic, organizational and budgetary – afflicting our universities is their increasing politicization.

Large chunks of the social sciences and humanities departments are dominated by tenured professors who, under the guise of academic freedom, promote a postmodernist nihilism (i.e. since all knowledge is merely someone's domineering "narrative," everything goes) and obsess about establishing a Palestinian state. As if the Jewish state's legitimacy depended on it, no matter how dictatorial it will be, and how oppressive the Palestinians already are to their own people.

Our "social-minded" liberals also uphold a neo-Marxist ideology, hostile to free markets and growth. They have brainwashed generations of students, indoctrinating them with an ideology that 50 years ago, when the horrors of communism were not yet famous, they had absorbed as innocent students.

SUCH REGRESSIVE views have done enormous damage to the Israeli economy and society. A damaging ethos of "welfarism" and distributive politics has come to dominate not only academia but our cultural, military and even our business elites. It believes that profit derives from exploitation, and that every deal, especially commercial, is a zero-sum game, a winner exploiting a loser. It promotes the old Marxist class-struggle conundrum and defends monopolistic unions as necessary to protect workers.

This destructive view of economic activity has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps that is why it is often difficult to do business with Israelis. An adversarial attitude to labor relations and the imposition of Histadrut-generated "progressive" labor laws has so politicized the workplace that the capable Israeli worker is unable to produce more than two-thirds of what an American worker produces. Low productivity translates naturally into low wages.

Such negative attitudes toward enterprise are why the economy, endowed with enormous potential, the best human capital in the world, and hundreds of billions from foreign investors, has performed – until the recent pro-market reforms– like a Third- World economy. The continued domination by a few tycoons and their oligopolies is a continuing reason why the economy can't fulfill its great potential.

Our academics seem oblivious to all this, and to the fact that economic concentration created by government domination of the economy constrains competition and damages efficiency. Lack of competition enables tycoons to inflate prices, and lack of efficiency helps them justify the low wages they pay. High prices and low wages dictated by monopolies – and not exploitation by the free market system, as these academics claim – is responsible for the fact that most Israelis, especially the lower-paid strata, are unable to make ends meet (altogether, only dogmatic Marxists can imagine that the economy, still replete with government intervention and government-sanctioned monopolies or entry barriers, is capitalist; "Thatcherite", no less.) Our academics have therefore stood aloof from the effort to break our economy's excessive concentration of wealth and power.

Many of their pro-welfare organizations get substantial contributions from the tycoons, helping legitimize them.

To ostensibly protect the weakened strata that welfare keeps weak and dependent (since the high taxes required to maintain its proliferating bureaucracies and wasteful practices check growth and spread poverty), our academics have developed a complete theology of "rights" that the government (namely the taxpayer) must translate into entitlements. They are blind to the fact that, generally, government interventions in the economy help the politically privileged, but hurt the rest.

List all "underdeveloped" areas in the country, including the Negev, the Galilee and Jerusalem, and you get a list of places on which the government spent billions to "help."

The universal failure of communist and socialist regimes and the repeated bankruptcy of welfare systems are in great part due to the fact that they must be run by governments.

The academics' advocacy of radical welfarism also makes a mockery of Zionism, which was originally meant to help Jews become productive, selfsufficient people. Instead, welfarism made Israelis dependent on a corrupt and corrupting political system that is forcing them to fight for government favors. But Marxism acts as blinders. Our academics cannot understand that a welfare state means big government, and big government is inevitably wasteful and corrupt.

Need we still prove why academic politicization is ruining the few last preserves where one can hold an open pluralistic discussion? Those in doubt should please explain how Israeli elites came to resemble "a one-note choir," as Prof. Amnon Rubinstein once put it.

The writer is director of the Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress.











The brothers-in-arms of the two Givati soldiers who were convicted on Sunday of using a Palestinian child as a human shield during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza went to court wearing T-shirts claiming, "We are Goldstone's victims." They described their comrades' conviction as "a stab in the back," and some even declared they would no longer serve in the reserves. They thereby proved that they have not learned the lessons of Cast Lead, which include the court's conviction of their friends.


The two convicted soldiers, who in the meantime had been demobilized from the Israel Defense Forces, forced an 11-year-old child to open bags in his home to ensure that they were not booby-trapped. The military court convicted them of exceeding their authority while endangering human life and of conduct unbecoming a soldier.


This justified conviction began with a report by the UN secretary general's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. This once again shows that not all the international reports published after the operation were false.


The Supreme Court has ruled the use of human shields illegal. But the use of a defenseless child is particularly grave. The two convicted soldiers, their comrades and the public must internalize this fact. And anyone who wishes to pride himself on the IDF's morality must also know how to recognize its ethical and legal lapses and bring those responsible to justice.


In Cast Lead, like in every other military operation, not everything was permissible. The fact that 150 complaints about soldiers' conduct during Cast Lead, including 36 for alleged war crimes, have produced only 47 criminal investigations - most of which have since been closed - is suspicious. But the fact that these two soldiers were tried and convicted redounds to the IDF's credit.


The real victim in the case the court just concluded was the 11-year-old child from the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood, who was forced to risk his life in front of his terrified family. The convicted soldiers are not "victims of Goldstone," but soldiers who committed a crime and therefore should have been tried and convicted - both to make them pay for their actions and to deter other soldiers from similarly unacceptable behavior in the future.








The wheeling and dealing going on behind the scenes about the construction freeze raises the question of whether the state is being run by a statesman or a marketplace peddler. Until recently, the media supported Netanyahu. He did what he should have done to restore President Obama's sympathy. He passed, in a mostly right-wing cabinet, the decision to freeze construction in the West Bank for 10 months and even kept his promise not to extend it "a day longer."


It had been assumed this concession would give him the required time to conduct direct talks with the Palestinians. But they, as is their custom, again proved they miss no opportunity to miss an opportunity. When the end of the 10-month freeze approached, the Palestinians demanded a two-month extension. Otherwise, they will not resume the direct talks. Why? Because that's the Palestinian leadership - painting itself into a corner and not knowing how to get out of it (we also used to be like that, more than once. We said we would not hold direct talks before terror stopped ).


And lo, after all the festive meetings in Washington, after 10 months of building freeze, now they're asking for two more months? Why? Because that's what they want. Even the Egyptian foreign minister denounced this demand as unnecessary foot-dragging.


Israel could have shown magnanimity - after all Bibi is a peace-seeker, his fans say. Instead we held out our hand like a beggar on a street corner, asking what we'd get for this extension the United States is asking of us. But the moment we agreed on the principle, to coin George Bernard Shaw's famous statement to a certain lady, we made it clear that now we are just haggling over the price.


"Confidants" of Netanyahu said Bibi would agree to extend the freeze by two months if he could present the cabinet with "an improved benefits' package it could not refuse" - increased security cooperation, more advanced defense measures - as if Israel isn't receiving almost everything it wants. There was even a suggestion to condition the additional two months' construction freeze on releasing Jonathan Pollard, a demand that sounds like pure extortion. And while we're at it, why not ask for another financial grant as well?


It is clear why the Obama administration is making such efforts to meet Bibi halfway. At least to those in the Oval Office who have access to Bibi's psychological file, where it says, in all likelihood, that he is squeezable, that he is a right-wing radical, that he is afraid to fall from power a second time - this time paving the way for Tzipi Livni to the prime minister's seat - and scared of losing the right-wing support that brought him to power.


Fresh proof of this psychological evaluation was seen in Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's blood-curdling performance in the United Nations' General Assembly. In one speech to the whole world Lieberman made mincemeat of Netanyahu's leadership, declaring that "there is no chance for a final-status arrangement either in one year or the coming years. The Palestinians don't want peace, they're only wasting time. There's no way of manufacturing an artificial peace."


He also said: "After 17 Oslo years, we should understand we're going down the wrong path."


Hard to believe any other foreign minister could undermine Israel's status like that and remain in office one more hour. But all Bibi had to say was that "the speech was not coordinated with the prime minister." Like a child who transgresses and says it wasn't me.


Ever since he declared in the Bar-Ilan speech "two states for two peoples," Bibi has been making strange moves. The strangest one was demanding the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. What do we need such "recognition" for? Israel is recognized by the UN as a Jewish state. The Palestinian state is the one that is not recognized. The UN's Partition Plan - the resolution adopted on November 29, 1947 by the General Assembly of the United Nations - established the terms "Jewish state" and "Arab state." The Palestinians are the ones who need recognition.


The whole construction freeze issue is unimportant compared with the necessity to exchange land, without which we will not achieve permanent borders and an end to the conflict. And we won't achieve this by haggling or with a government in which the Liebermans set the tone.









Shortly after the Palestinians announced a halt to negotiations with Israel "until the settlement freeze is resumed," Benjamin Netanyahu responded by calling on Mahmoud Abbas to return to the bargaining table "in order to reach a framework agreement within a year." Yesterday, the prime minister said he is in the midst of sensitive discussions with the Americans whose goal is to find a solution that would enable negotiations to resume. He also asked his ministers to refrain from commenting on the matter to the press.


But Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog refused to keep quiet. Herzog suggested that the diplomatic-security cabinet convene urgently to discuss the situation. "We are at a critical moment regarding the future of our talks with the Palestinians," he said. "It is inconceivable that issues so critical to our future should not be discussed by either the inner cabinet or the [full] cabinet."


The truth is that this absurd state of affairs, in which a vital issue is never discussed, is indeed possible here in Israel. It appears that despite a cabinet numbering 30 ministers, as well as a diplomatic-security cabinet and even a "septet" of seven key ministers, critical decisions are made by two individuals: the prime minister and the defense minister. The other ministers do not participate in the process. They are there solely as a rubber stamp. That is how it was in the past and that is how it is today.


In an article published over the Sukkot holiday, former minister Aryeh Deri recalled an episode that occurred during the first Gulf War in 1991. Deri was a young minister in the government headed by Yitzhak Shamir. After two days of missile attacks against Israel, the cabinet convened to decide whether to hit back at Iraq.


Defense Minister Moshe Arens was in favor, as were Ariel Sharon, Rafael Eitan, Rehavam Ze'evi and Yuval Ne'eman. Other ministers were opposed to Israeli intervention in Iraq, but they kept quiet. Some were afraid to anger Arens, and some did not want to be seen as "soft" in a right-wing government. But behind the scenes, they quietly encouraged Deri to voice his opposition. As it turned out, he was the lone dissenting voice (though due to American objections, the attack ultimately never took place).


Deri's regrettable conclusion was that for those ministers, personal machinations and political calculations took precedence over the good of the state. Deri also recalled how military officials present at the meeting sought to silence him, prompting him to remind them that the government commands the army, not vice versa.


Another illustration was brought to us by Minister Michael Eitan in an interview that also appeared over Sukkot. Eitan was asked about the likelihood of Israel launching a strike on Iran. He replied that the cabinet has not discussed the Iranian issue even once - though an assault on Iran would mean war, missiles on Tel Aviv and many deaths. According to Eitan, the decision on whether to attack will be made solely by Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in concert with the military brass; the other ministers won't be involved.


What is most remarkable, however, is that Eitan supports this unusual method of decision making: In his view, it is appropriate and even healthy.


The decision to launch the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006 was also made solely by then-prime minister Ehud Olmert. Within minutes of learning that two soldiers had been abducted along the northern border, Olmert decided to teach Hezbollah a lesson. Later, the cabinet backed him automatically: Not a single minister expressed opposition or proposed alternatives.


Students who pursue degrees in business administration are taught to reach decisions the right way: to prepare the relevant information and present it in a timely fashion, to hold a discussion in which all opinions will be heard and unorthodox views that challenge the accepted wisdom will even be encouraged. Since we live in an uncertain world, every decision has a number of possible outcomes of varying probabilities. So students are also given another course, decision theory, which trains them to build a "decision tree" that includes all the possible solutions, their possible outcomes and these outcomes' probability, and then to calculate which decision will produce the greatest value.


But as we have learned from Deri, Eitan and Olmert, our government doesn't need an organized process of decision-making. They also don't need to hear other opinions. In our country, the decision is invariably made by two individuals - the prime minister and the defense minister. But if so, why do we need the other 28 ministers?










Once again, Europe's pathetic clown, Silvio Berlusconi, has delivered a tasteless joke, proving how little dignity is left in Italian politics. This time, the joke involved anti-Semitic motifs and made light of Holocaust victims.


But as far as Israel's government is concerned, Berlusconi can rest easy with his orgies and his demagogic speeches. And he can always be counted on to supply the latter, as he did on Europe's Holocaust Day in 2009, when he stated: "Anti-Semitic laws [instituted under Mussolini] are still perceived as a deep wound inflicted not only on the Jewish community, but on Italy's entire society, which suddenly lost part of its history" (La Stampa, January 29, 2009 ).


In general, West European prattle about the Holocaust should not mislead Israelis. It does not negate European racism.


Berlusconi is a great friend of Israel's, so he is allowed to be anti-Semitic. His government also sponsors racist propaganda against Muslim immigrants. Using the economic crisis as a pretext, and buoyed by irredentist trends of affluent northern Italy, many Italians think they can transgress every moral boundary in their treatment of foreigners. Disgustingly, drivel about the Holocaust serves as a convenient cover for racism.


And France's president, a champion babbler about the Holocaust ("I changed at Yad Vashem," he declared during his first election campaign ), expels Gypsies as though they were Polish Jews in Germany in 1935. Yet Israelis respond with indifference (apparently, so long as a policy doesn't end in gas chambers, it isn't so bad ).


As far as Israeli public opinion is concerned, the "confrontation with the past" offers us unconditional acceptance into the "family of nations," that is, the Western nations. And so long as they act "as we do" - building fences, occupying territory, controlling Arab streets and villages - we can feel right at home and accuse them of being "hypocrites" as we go on "confronting the past," meaning the Holocaust.


But unfortunately for us, to many in the West we serve as a symbol of neocolonialism. By providing a myth of a besieged West confronting an "encroaching" Islam, we provide a license for new forms of racism undertaken in the name of (what else? ) "deep friendship with Israel."


Hence anyone who takes umbrage at non-Jewish intellectuals and peace activists who stubbornly insist on opposing a 43-year-old occupation rather than dealing with other outrages around the world should think about how we managed to become an economic and military extension of the West and a Western symbol of control over the East. What, exactly, are the grounds for denouncing those, such as Western leftists, who can't stand this symbol?


Italy, Denmark, Holland and France are indeed good friends of Israel's. And racism is surging within their borders, making the lives of minorities intolerable.


But it is worth taking a look at other European countries, such as Germany and Spain. These countries' political systems are, for the first time in European history, dealing with heterogeneity - a Muslim minority - in a new way. Despite manifestations of racism and political differences between left and right, both countries view Islam as a legitimate component of Europe (and Britain undoubtedly preceded them in this respect ).


Anyone who paid attention to the Spanish response to Al-Qaida's attacks in the elections held immediately afterward, or who reads the frequent statements by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her finance minister, Wolfgang Schauble, can identify the change: These countries have accepted heterogeneity as a way of coping with the future, including the economic crisis.


This is not the "confrontation with the past" that Israelis stubbornly seek. You do not deal with the past when you forge economic policy; you don't forge economic policy if you are not thinking about the future. If only we could learn something from the present!









I am not sure whether it was prudent or right to demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish nation-state in the framework of peace negotiations. However, since the question has been raised, it is impossible to ignore the absolute, blunt negative responses delivered by Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Saeb Erekat and the Arab League. Since the root of the dispute is Arab unwillingness to accept the Jewish people's right to self-determination, or even to recognize the Jewish people's existence, it is clear that this is not a simple problem.


Since the Palestinians are raising questions about the Jews' very right to self-determination, perhaps some questions, however difficult and complex, for the Palestinians might be in order. Let there be no misunderstanding: Just as the question of Jewish self-determination is one for Jews alone to answer, so too is Palestinian self-determination an issue for Palestinians, not Jews, to decide. But Jews have the right to ask some questions in this regard.


The first question is directed at the Palestinian negotiators. I hope that despite all the obstacles, an independent Palestinian state will ultimately arise alongside the State of Israel.


However, since in Arab consciousness the term "Palestine" includes the entire territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, and not just the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which will make up the future Palestinian state, Palestinian leaders should be asked whether it is clear to them that the territory of Israel proper is not part of Palestine, and should not be presented as such in the Palestinian narrative and in Palestinian schools. Just as a majority of Israel's Jewish citizens distinguish between "the State of Israel" and "the Land of Israel," it should be clear to us, and to them, that Acre and Jaffa and Be'er Sheva are not part of Palestine.


This is a complicated issue. But if in their independent state, the Palestinians continue to view the territory of the State of Israel as "occupied territory" that belongs to the Palestinian homeland, this will obviously not facilitate the process of mutual reconciliation.


The second question is directed at Israel's Arab citizens. Some of their leaders prefer to refer to themselves as "Palestinian citizens of Israel," and that, of course, is their right. But it is impossible to ignore the fact that following the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, this definition is liable to seem problematic. Does this definition mean they will view the independent state of Palestine as their country and their homeland? Does it also mean that, in the final analysis, they view the areas where they live - the Galilee, Acre, Jaffa and elsewhere - as part of Palestine, which by that point will be a political entity and not just a geographic region?


Granted, the modern liberal world allows multiple identities (as who knows better than the Jews? ). But the issue is far from simple. In a climate fraught with historical tensions, some clarifications could advance Israeli Arabs' acceptance as equal citizens - a challenge that will only become more pressing for Israel after independent Palestine is established, since then, Israel's various security-oriented excuses will no longer have the same weight and validity.


These are difficult questions, and the very fact of raising them could be interpreted as an attempt to complicate the negotiations. But I believe the opposite is the case: Anyone who, like me, supports a solution of two states for two peoples and wants to see Arab citizens of Israel gain full civic equality can, and perhaps even must, pose them.










The six-month federal moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is scheduled to end on Nov. 30. Complaining of job losses, politicians in the gulf and many in industry are demanding that it be lifted now. Senator Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, is threatening to block President Obama's nominee for budget director unless drilling is allowed to resume quickly.

The only question that should matter is whether government and industry have learned enough since the BP blowout to proceed safely.


As to the Obama administration, the answer is mostly yes. After a shockingly slow and disorganized start, it has reorganized and strengthened the regulatory agencies, stiffened environmental reviews and otherwise raised standards for approval for all deep-water drilling projects — not only in the gulf but elsewhere on America's Continental Shelf.


Government and industry have to improve their capacity to respond to a major spill. And Congress needs to give these reforms the force of law (making it harder for another administration to backslide) and provide more money for increased inspections and oversight. But after years of serving industry, the regulators seem finally to understand that their first responsibility is to the public and the environment.


It is impossible, at this point, to tell whether industry gets it. Four major companies — ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron and ConocoPhillips — have promised to invest $1 billion in new response capacity that would broadly replicate the "top kill" technology that took BP months of floundering to find; BP says it will join the effort. Yet the list of what went wrong is long, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is right to say he will lift the moratorium only when he is comfortable that industry has "significantly reduced" the risks of another blowout.


Last week, Mr. Salazar announced the specific conditions the 33 deep-water rigs affected by the moratorium must meet before they can go back to work. Blowout preventers — the device that failed in the BP explosion — must be inspected and certified by industry, government and third-party professionals. New rules governing the cementing and casing of wells must be strictly observed. Every stage of the drilling must be monitored and certified by independent engineers.


Mr. Salazar sensibly made clear that the moratorium will not be lifted en masse and that each of the idled rigs will have to meet the new specifications. He told The Times that he expected oil companies to complain that the regulations are too onerous. "There is the pre-April 20th framework of regulation and the post-April 20th framework," he said, "and the oil and gas industry better get used to it."


Some environmental groups would like a permanent moratorium on all new offshore drilling. And, clearly, the country must develop cleaner and more secure energy sources. But until then, oil and gas will have to be a part of the energy mix. What the administration is doing is establishing the conditions under which exploration can proceed responsibly. We need to hear a lot more from industry about what it is doing to meet those conditions.








In a landmark 1967 case, the Supreme Court ruled that evidence from a wiretap on a phone booth was obtained unconstitutionally. Despite the public nature of a phone booth, the tap violated the defendant's privacy under the Fourth Amendment. "Wherever a man may be," the court explained, "he is entitled to know that he will remain free from unreasonable searches and seizures."


Fast forward to today, when courts are wrestling with the question of whether new technology requires them to think differently about what is a reasonable expectation of privacy.


In August, three judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (two conservatives, one liberal) ruled unanimously — and correctly — that police violated the Constitution when they hid a GPS device on a person's car and tracked his every move without a valid warrant. That person, Antoine Jones, was convicted of conspiracy to distribute crack and cocaine based on the tracking of his Jeep for four weeks.


The way to define what was reasonable for Mr. Jones to regard as private, the court said, is by focusing on what was unreasonable for law enforcement to consider public. "The whole of one's movements over the course of a month is not constructively exposed to the public," Judge Douglas Ginsburg said, adding that it "reveals an intimate picture of the subject's life that he expects no one to have — short perhaps of his spouse."


Last week, the Justice Department asked the whole court to rehear the case. The government relies heavily on one precedent. In 1983, the Supreme Court said it was legal for police to use a beeper without a warrant to track a suspect on public roads. The argument was dubious: The suspect's movements were visible and anyone could have gleaned what the police did without the beeper's help, so he had no reasonable expectation of privacy.


The government now contends that replacing the beeper with a GPS makes no difference because surveillance of Mr. Jones was on public roads as well. Two other appeals courts in the past three years have accepted that argument. In one, the opinion was written by Richard Posner, among the most respected federal judges.


He got it wrong. Judge Ginsburg got it right: "The difference is not one of degree but of kind." He also said that, in the Supreme Court case, the justices "distinguished between the limited information discovered by use of the beeper — movements during a discrete journey — and more comprehensive or sustained monitoring." The justices left for another day whether 24/7 surveillance should be regulated by another legal principle.


That day is here. Digital technology raises questions about differences between cyberspace and the physical world, which most search-and-seizure laws deal with. In showing why a powerful advance in technology calls for significantly greater protection of privacy, the three-judge panel provided an important example of how the law can respond to new circumstances.








By 2013, according to an Obama administration plan, everyone in the United States who is arrested and fingerprinted will undergo an immigration check. Suspects' names and fingerprints will be run not just through criminal databases but compared against immigration records, too, through a program that is being steadily and rapidly rolled out across the country.


The program, Secure Communities, a collaboration between Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, and the Department of Justice, is a source of anxiety and anger for cities, counties and police departments that want to preserve a bright line between local policing and federal immigration enforcement. Their valid concern is that local officers should never be seen by immigrant communities as arms of immigration enforcement. Fighting and preventing crime are unrelated to detaining and deporting immigrants and should stay that way.


Places like San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and Arlington County, Va., have chosen to opt out of Secure Communities, but their ability to do so seems limited.


Because Secure Communities is a data-sharing program between two federal departments, the only way a local jurisdiction could avoid participating would be by refusing to send a suspect's fingerprints to the federal criminal-justice system, a dereliction of crime-fighting duty. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has written a letter detailing how a local agency could register its objections as the program is deployed, but she did not really offer an opt-out clause. This seems hardly likely to preserve that bright line on enforcement.


The Obama administration insists that its primary focus is on catching and deporting the worst, most dangerous offenders. But its record shows otherwise. It has been using its powers to detain and deport tens of thousands of immigrants who have no criminal records and pose no conceivable danger to their communities.


Secure Communities should not allow overzealous local police officers to use arbitrary stops as way to ensnare illegal immigrants in the deportation web. Nor should the administration let its zeal for immigration enforcement complicate the jobs of local law enforcement, or impose new layers of fear and isolation on immigrants.


Washington needs to find a way to allow cities like San Francisco and Washington to enforce the law without turning into a branch of ICE.








Wayne Winterrowd once told me, in an e-mail, that he thought of me when autumn brought pig-killing time around. I was grateful for the thought. And if I ever find myself covering rosebushes with evergreen boughs — while wearing crampons — I will certainly think of Wayne, who reported doing just that a couple of years ago. Like many gardeners around the world, I will be mourning Wayne for a good long time. He died on Sept. 17, age 68, at home in Vermont where he lived with his spouse and co-author, Joe Eck.


Some gardens matter for their design or for the collection of plants they contain. But North Hill — Wayne and Joe's garden — mattered for another reason, too: the spirit in which it was inhabited. It lay on unexpected ground — a steep slope with a runnel of water working its way downhill — so it managed to be many gardens, layered informally one above the other. I always felt it was my job to get lost, if only to discover, once again, how a garden so wild at the edges could also hide so much hospitality. Wayne was a southerner, from Shreveport, La., and to him I attribute — because he voiced it most readily — the feeling of graciousness at North Hill, the sense that the garden itself was the map of a shared life.


"I have been an agrarian all my life, by instinct," Wayne told me once. That is the spirit in all the books he wrote with Joe, but especially in "Living Seasonally," which is one of the most important books I've ever read about living with the land. It's about the rituals of seasonal wealth from the garden, about the convergence of esthetics and appetite.


It was impossible to visit North Hill without feeling what an occasion the visit was, and I remember well how affectionately slow the cadence of departure seemed, evening gathering, small-town Vermont lying just down the road, Wayne and Joe waving goodbye yet again. VERLYN KLINKENBORG








It's beyond astonishing to me that John Boehner has a real chance to be speaker of the House of Representatives.


I've always thought of Mr. Boehner as one of the especially sleazy figures in a capital seething with sleaze. I remember writing about that day back in the mid-'90s when this slick, chain-smoking, quintessential influence-peddler decided to play Santa Claus by handing out checks from tobacco lobbyists to fellow Congressional sleazes right on the floor of the House.


It was incredible, even to some Republicans. The House was in session, and here was a congressman actually distributing money on the floor. Other, more serious, representatives were engaged in debates that day on such matters as financing for foreign operations and a proposed amendment to the Constitution to outlaw desecration of the flag. Mr. Boehner was busy desecrating the House itself by doing the bidding of big tobacco.


Embarrassed members of the G.O.P. tried to hush up the matter, but I got a tip and called Mr. Boehner's office. His chief of staff, Barry Jackson, was hardly contrite. "They were contributions from tobacco P.A.C.'s," he said.


When I asked why the congressman would hand the money out on the floor of the House, Mr. Jackson's answer seemed an echo of Willie Sutton's observation about banks. "The floor," he said, "is where the members meet with each other."


Mr. Boehner is the minority leader in the House and would most likely become speaker if the Republicans win control in next month's elections. He has stopped funneling corporate money to his colleagues on the House floor. (It is now illegal.) But nothing else has changed, except that his already outsized influence-peddling has grown. The amount of democracy-destroying money that manages to make its way into the sleazy environs of what is now known as Boehner Land has increased to a staggering degree.


The Times's Eric Lipton, in an article last month, noted that Mr. Boehner "maintains especially tight ties with a circle of lobbyists and former aides representing some of the nation's biggest businesses, including Goldman Sachs, Google, Citigroup, R.J. Reynolds, MillerCoors and UPS.


"They have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaigns, provided him with rides on their corporate jets, socialized with him at luxury golf resorts and waterfront bashes and are now leading fund-raising efforts for his Boehner for Speaker campaign, which is soliciting checks of up to $37,800 each, the maximum allowed."


The hack who once handed out checks on the House floor is now a coddled, gilded flunky of the nation's big-time corporate elite.


When House Democrats were preparing for the first floor vote on financial regulatory reform, Mr. Boehner and other Republican leaders summoned more than 100 industry lobbyists and conservative activists to a private strategy session. One could be forgiven for thinking that behind those closed doors they may not have had the public's best interests in mind. According to Mr. Lipton, Mr. Boehner told the gathering, "We need you to get out there and speak up against this."


Both major parties have, with great enthusiasm, turned more and more of the government over to corporate and banking interests. But the G.O.P., with Mr. Boehner currently the point person, is fanatical about it, has barely tried to hide its willingness to offer up the government wholesale, no questions asked.


Just this past July, Mr. Boehner called for a moratorium on new federal regulations, saying it would be "a wonderful signal to the private sector that they're going to have some breathing room." Talk about an invitation to a nightmare. Try imagining how the public would be treated by banks, energy companies, food processors and myriad other powerful entities if the federal government were forced by law to ignore even more of their predations.


That's Mr. Boehner, for you — always willing to stick his neck out for the elite. When it comes to policies of

particular concern to ordinary individuals and families, however, his generosity of spirit and passionate willingness to help vanishes. He believes, for example, that Americans who are at least 20 years away from retirement should be unable to receive Social Security before they are 70, and that Social Security benefits should be means-tested.


Mr. Boehner and his pals also opposed the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection created by the Wall Street financial overhaul. Protect the public? You must be kidding.


The U.S. is in terrible shape right now because far too much influence has been ceded to the financial and corporate elites who have used that influence to game the system and reap rewards that are almost unimaginable. Ordinary working Americans have been left far behind, gasping and on their knees.


John Boehner has been one of the leaders of the army of enablers responsible for this abominable state of affairs.







By now everyone has an image of Rahm Emanuel. He's the profanity-spewing political street-fighter. He's the guy who once sent a dead fish to a political opponent. This past week, "Saturday Night Live" spoofed him as an abrasive pit bull. "On Friday, the White House released Rahm Emanuel back into the wild," Seth Meyers joked during "Weekend Update."


This image doesn't square with the guy I've covered for the past decade. I began interviewing Emanuel when he was in the House, while he was building the Democratic majority. Then when he moved to the Obama White House, I was one of the many people on his long, long call list. He'd call a few times a week. The calls lasted from 45 seconds to two minutes, enough time for him to tout some speech or policy initiative, answer a question and then be off.


Every conversation, short or long, was a headlong rush. Rahm is always passionately promoting some policy idea. In Congress during the Bush era, he was pushing programs to boost America's saving rate (which actually would have been a good thing in that debt-fueled decade). Over the past couple years he's been boosting community colleges, education reform, innovation and job-creation schemes.


He's like an urban cowboy poking his herd of cattle with a stick. Every head in the herd gets a poke every day. He's willing to be a relentless noodge to keep the herd moving in the right direction.


In my experience, Rahm's reputation for profanity and rage is vastly overstated. On several occasions I thought I was finally going to see him on the rampage. In March 2009, I wrote a column arguing that Obama was not the fiscal moderate he pretended to be. Rahm asked me to stop by his office that afternoon. I came wearing my asbestos underwear, but Rahm calmly made his case with graphs and charts.


Last year, I wrote a column opposing health care reform. First, I acknowledged the arguments for the bill. Then I criticized the lack of cost control. Rahm called that morning, but with a smile in his voice: "Hey, I loved your first four paragraphs!"


Over the summer, I wrote a tough column wondering if Obama had the tenacity to fight a long war in Afghanistan. That week, I ran into Rahm at a Bruce Springsteen concert. He was clearly angry and would barely shake my hand. "That column. ..." he said, icily, and then walked away.


That was as florid as I've seen him get. Far from being a head-busting capo, I've found him to be more thick-skinned about criticism than most people I write about.


Over all, Rahm is a warmhearted Machiavellian. On the one hand, he is a professional strategist. He surveys the landscape and figures out how he can push or maneuver people into getting what he wants. He ran a disciplined White House.


On the other hand, he is not one of these cold-eyed tacticians who is always hedging his bets. He's not one of these butter-wouldn't-melt-in-his-mouth guys.


Any smart pat of butter would spot him at 100 yards and flee. That's because Rahm is completely in touch with his affections and aversions. He knows who and what he loves — Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, the city of Chicago — and there is nothing hedged about his devotion to those things. He may be a professional tactician, but he speaks the language of loyalty and commitment, not the language of calculations and self-interest.


I'm writing this appreciation of Rahm because success has a way of depersonalizing its beneficiaries. From the moment kids are asked to subdue their passions in order to get straight As to the time they arrive at a company and are asked to work 70 hours a week climbing the ladder, people have an incentive to suppress their passions and prune their souls.


That's especially true in Washington, a town with more than its fair share of former hall monitors, a place where politicians engage in these pantomime gestures of faux friendship and become promotable, hollowed-out caricatures of themselves.


But Rahm has somehow managed to remain true to his whole and florid self. He's managed to preserve the patois of Chicago, the earthy freneticism of his Augie March upbringing.


He made some big mistakes: Trying to use the financial crisis as an opportunity to do everything at once. He can sometimes be harsh. But he has generally lived up to his ample heart. He gave up the chance to be speaker of the House because of his affection for Obama. He gave up the chief of staff job and returned to Chicago because that city is in his bones.


I interview a lot of politicians. Rahm is unique. Flawed like all of us, he is a full human being, rich and fertile from the inside out.








Charlottesville, Va.

IN early fall, a few weeks after the start of school, cold viruses wing their way from one young nose to another and thence to families and the workplace, infecting people at three to four times the rate at other times of year. And so the cold season begins and, with it, the relentless sneezing, coughing and sniffling that continue well into winter.


Most of us come down with at least a couple of colds a year; children get up to a dozen. But we all know people who seem never to catch one. What's their secret? Do they have extraordinarily robust immune systems, and the rest of us, pathetically weak ones? You might think this was key, given the number of nutritional supplements, cold remedies and fortified cereals on the market that purport to augment the immune system — often with the help of vitamins, zinc or ginseng — and by so doing stave off colds.


But science and experience don't back this up. On the contrary, if you're keen on tamping down your own cold, "boosting" your immunity may be the last thing you want to do.


To understand why this is so requires a bit of knowledge about how colds work. There are more than 200 cold viruses, the most common of which are rhinoviruses (from the Greek "rin-," for "nose"). When you encounter a particular strain, your body eventually produces antibodies to it, which remain on hand to quash that virus the next time you're exposed. But with so many flavors of cold virus circulating, there's always a new one to catch.


From the look of it, these ubiquitous cold bugs are mischief-makers in our bodies. For decades, people thought this was the case — that the runny nose, sore throat and sneezing we experience with colds resulted from the destructive effects of the virus itself on the innocent cells of our noses and throats. After all, flu viruses work this way; they destroy the cells of our respiratory tract, wreaking havoc in our airways.


But, as medical science has realized over the past few decades, the most prevalent cold viruses in fact do little direct harm to our cells. In one experiment in 1984, researchers at the University of Copenhagen performed biopsies on nasal tissue taken from people suffering severe colds, then did the same after the subjects had recovered. To the scientists' surprise, none of the samples showed any sign of damage to the nasal tissue. Further vindicating the viruses themselves was another study around the same time showing that rhinoviruses infect only a small number of cells lining the nasal passages.


Here was a new insight in cold science: the symptoms are caused not by the virus but by its host — by the body's inflammatory response. Chemical agents manufactured by our immune system inflame our cells and tissues, causing our nose to run and our throat to swell. The enemy is us.


Indeed, it's possible to create the full storm of cold symptoms with no cold virus at all, but only a potent cocktail of the so-called inflammatory mediators that the body makes itself — among them, cytokines, kinins, prostaglandins and interleukins, powerful little chemical messengers that cause the blood vessels in the nose to dilate and leak, stimulate the secretion of mucus, activate sneeze and cough reflexes and set off pain in our nerve fibers.


So susceptibility to cold symptoms is not a sign of a weakened immune system, but quite the opposite. And if you're looking to quell those symptoms, strengthening your immune system may be counterproductive. It could aggravate the symptoms by amplifying the very inflammatory agents that cause them.


In any case, the supplements, remedies and cereals that claim to strengthen immunity (and thereby protect you from colds) do no such thing. It would be one thing if by some magic they made your body produce antibodies to any particular virus. But they don't. And though some of these products contain ingredients that have been shown in studies to affect elements of the immune system, there's scant evidence that they bolster protection against infection by cold viruses. No one knows which immune agents — other than antibodies — accomplish that.


There's another intriguing paradox here. Studies suggest that about one in four people who get infected with a cold virus don't get sick. The virus gets into their bodies, and eventually they produce antibodies to it, but they don't experience symptoms. It may be that people like this are not making the normal amounts of inflammatory agents.


It seems counterintuitive, but there it is: People with more active immune systems may be especially prone to cold symptoms. So getting a cold may be a positive sign that your biochemical defenses are working normally — a glass-half-full view of getting the sniffles.


Jennifer Ackerman is the author of "Ah-Choo!: The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold."








YESTERDAY, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to a man who was reviled, in his time, as doing work that was considered the greatest threat to humanity since the atomic bomb. Sweet vindication it must be for Robert Edwards, the British biologist who developed the in vitro fertilization procedure that led to the birth of Louise Brown, the first so-called test-tube baby.


It's hard to believe today, now that I.V.F. has become mainstream, that when Ms. Brown's imminent birth was announced in 1978, even serious scientists suspected she might be born with monstrous birth defects. How, some wondered, could it be possible to mess around with eggs and sperm in a petri dish and not do some kind of serious chromosomal mischief?


And yet, in the 32 years since, our attitude toward Dr. Edwards's research has completely changed: I.V.F. is now used so often it is practically routine.


The history of in vitro fertilization demonstrates not only how easily the public will accept new technology once it's demonstrated to be safe, but also that the nightmares predicted during its development almost never come true. This is a lesson to keep in mind as we debate whether to pursue other promising yet controversial medical advances, from genetic engineering to human cloning.


Dr. Edwards and his collaborator, the gynecologist Patrick Steptoe, who died in 1988, became notorious after they announced that they had fertilized a human egg outside the mother's womb. In England, reporters camped out on the lawn of the prospective parents, Lesley and John Brown, for weeks before the baby's due date.


When Mrs. Brown checked into Oldham General Hospital, outside Manchester, to give birth, she did so under an assumed name. Still, reporters sneaked past security dressed as plumbers and priests in hopes of getting a glimpse of her.


Meanwhile, criticism of the pregnancy grew increasingly extreme. Religious groups denounced the two scientists as madmen who were trying to play God. Medical ethicists declared that in vitro fertilization was the first step on a slippery slope toward aberrations like artificial wombs and baby farms.


Fortunately, Louise Brown was not born a monster, but rather a healthy, 5-pound, 12-ounce blond baby girl. She had no birth defects at all, and suddenly her existence seemed to demonstrate only that there was nothing to fear about I.V.F. The birth of the "baby of the century" paved the way for a happy ending for millions of infertile couples — nearly four million babies worldwide have been conceived with the procedure.


True, I.V.F. has not been without consequences. It immediately raised new questions: Would single women or gay couples use the technology? Would it be all right for couples to create and save excess embryos to be used in later attempts if the first try failed?


It has also opened the door to new controversial concepts: "designer babies," carrying certain selected genes; pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, which allows the possibility of choosing the baby's sex; and human cloning.


Even today, not everyone is comfortable with in vitro fertilization. In a 2005 survey, 13 percent of British adults, and a surprising 22 percent of those under 24, said the risks involved in such fertility treatments might outweigh the benefits.


Yet with I.V.F. the public has shown how it can debate the usefulness of a new medical technology, reject its abuse and in some cases embrace its benefits. We approve when a woman in her 30s who otherwise couldn't conceive does so through in vitro fertilization, for example, but we cry foul when a 60-year-old tries to do the same.


As Dr. Edwards himself noted in the early 1970s, just because a technology can be abused doesn't mean it will be. Electricity is a good thing, he said, regardless of its leading to the invention of the electric chair.


Science fiction is filled with dystopian stories in which the public blindly accepts destructive technologies. But in vitro fertilization offers a more optimistic model. As we continue to develop new ways of improving upon nature, the slope may be slippery, but that's no reason to avoid taking the first step.


Robin Marantz Henig is the author of "Pandora's Baby: How the First Test Tube Babies Sparked the Reproductive Revolution."







In 1982, when seven people died after taking Tylenol that had been tainted with cyanide, the drug's maker responded in a way corporations rarely do in crisis. Instead of hunkering down and hiding information, it opened up, seeking to expose the cause and protect the public.


It set up a 24-hour consumer hotline, recalled all Tylenol products and developed a tamper-proof seal. Then CEO-James Burke became a media fixture, a symbol of putting consumer safety first.


It turned out that the poison was introduced on the store shelf by someone who was never caught. J&J was not culpable. But the Tylenol brand was saved, and the company's actions became a textbook example of crisis management.


Times apparently have changed. Last year, when J&J faced what should have been a relatively minor problem, executives forgot to read their own textbook.


The company discovered in late 2008 that some Motrin tablets, made by its McNeil division, were not dissolving properly, possibly affecting their potency. So did executives publicly announce the problem and recall the defective product?


Hardly. Instead, J&J hired a contractor that quietly dispatched workers to retailers to buy up thousands of the Motrin vials. The workers were told not to mention a recall and to act like regular customers. In testimony last spring before a congressional panel, a top McNeil executive denied knowing about the plan. But internal e-mails show executives approved it and one even bragged about it: "This was a major win for us as it limits the press that will be seen."


In other words, the goal was to hide the problem. Now J&J could use some extra-strength Tylenol for a public relations migraine it richly deserves.


Companies that put worries about expense and bad PR above doing the right thing sometimes get away with it. But when they don't, they compound their problems by tarnishing their brands. BP's initial efforts to minimize the severity of its Gulf Coast oil spill cost the company its credibility. Or recall the Ford-Firestone saga of 2000, after the carmaker and the tire company hid evidence that a particular tire had a high incidence of failure when mounted on the Ford Explorer and equivalents. Dozens of people died in accidents.


The Motrin coverup is even more puzzling because J&J had far bigger quality-control problems to worry about, ones that would soon lead to a recall of 130 million bottles of children's and infant's liquid medicines. The Food and Drug Administration found serious lapses at McNeil plants in Fort Washington, Pa., and Puerto Rico that might have allowed products to be contaminated by metal particles or bacteria, or to contain too much active ingredient. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee began investigating those massive recalls and discovered the Motrin problems, too.


All of which leads to the conclusion that the nation needs a muscular watchdog to keep drugs safe. Several lawmakers are pushing just such a measure. Today, the FDA has no authority to order a recall. The agency can only issue warnings to companies and urge them to act. And it can only seize products after the cumbersome process of winning a court order. In the Motrin case, even the FDA admits it moved too slowly.


The best that can be said is that no one appears to have been harmed. But when companies with sterling reputations are willing to play fast and loose with recalls, the public needs more than luck to remain safe.







Johnson & Johnson declined to provide an opposing view. Excerpts from last week's testimony by J&J CEO William Weldon to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee:


I know that we let the public down. We did not maintain our high quality standards, and as a result, children do not have access to our important medicines. I accept full accountability for the problems at McNeil, and I will take full accountability for fixing them. After we found a substantial quality issue at McNeil, we instituted a broad and precautionary recall of all liquid children's products manufactured in Fort Washington, which we did in the interest of protecting consumers.


OUR VIEW: J&J loses its way with secret buy-up of defective drug


Although our medical experts and the FDA agreed that the health risk was remote, we believed the right course of action was to proceed with a broad precautionary recall and commence a complete reexamination of McNeil's manufacturing processes. We recognized then, and we recognize now, that we need to do better, and we will work hard to restore the public's trust and faith in Johnson & Johnson, and strive to ensure that something like this never happens again. ...


(The committee also) raised questions about what you described as a "phantom recall" of two lots of eight-caplet Motrin vials that were distributed to certain retail establishments, primarily gas stations and convenience stores. ... Based on what I have learned ... about the way the Motrin retrieval was handled, including the points that this committee brought to light, it is clear to me that in retrospect, McNeil should have handled things differently. And going forward, if similar situations arise, they will be handled differently.


As an initial matter, it is important to keep in mind that the Motrin retrieval and subsequent recall were not prompted by safety concerns about the product. Rather, the caplets were found not to dissolve as quickly as intended. ... I believe that McNeil acted with good intentions, and I do not view the use of a contractor to retrieve product, by itself, as inappropriate. The retrieval of product in this case was targeted and very comprehensive. But this episode was not a model for how I would like to see Johnson & Johnson companies approach problems with defective product when they arise, and I can assure the committee that we are taking stock of the lessons learned. ...


Our efforts to assess and improve the quality issues we found at McNeil began many months ago. We have made considerable progress, and we are working quickly to resolve any outstanding issues and resume production of our children's liquid products. ...


I am committed to working cooperatively with the committee and the FDA to get the McNeil products back on the shelves for the people who rely on them. We look forward to earning back the trust of all those who have depended upon Johnson & Johnson to take care of themselves and their families for decades.









"Repeatedly stabbing the air with his finger," a visibly frustrated Barack Obamacomplained to Rolling Stone: "It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election." The very "idea that we've got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democraticbase, that people are sitting on their hands complaining, is just irresponsible. ... If people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place."


Well, it took him long enough. Some of us could have told him these people weren't serious two years ago. Back then, enthusiasm for Obama jumped the rails of sanity. A San Francisco Chronicle columnist insisted that Obama was a semimystical " lightworker."George Lucas insisted he was a Jedi Knight. Author/spiritualist Deepak Chopra said Obama represented a "quantum leap in American consciousness." Oprah merely insisted he was "The One."


The Obama altar


Obama publicly encouraged all of this bizarre-messianic stuff, with rhetoric about "we are the ones we've been waiting for" and invocations of "hope" and "change" — as if these were serious campaign platforms, ostensibly in the hope of wooing young idealistic voters who needed to be wooed like that to drop their Game Boy consoles. That's why volunteers trained at "camp Obama" were instructed to proselytize, not campaign. They were told, according to The New York Times, that they should avoid discussing the issues but rather should "testify" about how they "came to Obama," as if he was some sort of religious figure.


Immediately after the election, a collection of Hollywood stars not seen since Cannonball Run was in the theaters got together to make a YouTube video in which they pledged to do all sorts of nice and worthy things. But also some silly things. For instance, Anthony Kiedis of the band Red Hot Chili Peppers pledged "allegiance to the funk, to the United Funk of Funkadelica." Then, later, while kissing his biceps for emphasis, he pledged to "be of service (bicep smooch) to Barack Obama (bicep smooch)."Others joined in. Demi Moore, too pledged to be Obama's "servant."


Now, Obama seems to think these same voters are less serious because they don't believe that nonsense anymore. Obama whines that he wishes he didn't have a weak economy. Vice President Biden actually calls Democrats whiners for complaining about the weak economy. But, as Ramesh Ponnuru wrote on National Review Online, it is "precisely the weak economy and weakly engaged voters that resulted in his big margin and padded congressional majority in the 2008 elections. Take either out of the picture, and Obama still wins but lacks the votes to screw up American health care. Take the good and bad together, Mr. President."


It's almost as if Obama is stunned and disappointed to discover that people who can be won over by a Pepsi-style ad campaign might be lost by 20 months of economic decrepitude, nearly 10% unemployment and the worst summer unemployment rate for young people since 1948. Or, perhaps they lost their ardor because Candidate Obama and President Obama are very, very different people. Candidate Obama was a passionate bipartisan. He was hopeful; he promised change. President Obama has been the most partisan president since World War II. He's not hopeful anymore, he's literally a finger-wagger who spends a shocking amount of time complaining about how unfair his critics are, how bad his press is and how hard he's working despite countless vacations and golf outings.


As for the change he promised. Well. "The way Washington works" hasn't been transformed, unless by that you mean "made worse," and the president's signature accomplishment, health care reform, remains as unpopular as it was when he shoved it through Congress on a partisan basis.


This isn't 2008


Many leading liberals insist that today's "millennial" generation — the "next New Dealers," according toWashington Post columnist E.J. Dionne — is the most liberal in memory, and polls support that. But it should be no surprise. "In America," Oscar Wilde observed, "the young are always ready to give those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience." (A Pew poll released last week showed that a third of young voters didn't even know the Democrats controlled Congress.) But such surveys are a snapshot. As events change so do our views. Whatever motivated so many young voters in 2008, far fewer of them are similarly motivated today to vote to let Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi keep their jobs.


A recent "Rock the Vote" survey found that the Democratic Party's advantage among young people has been cut in half.Obama sees it as proof that his most ardent supporters are less serious today than when they thought he could walk on water. But for those of us outside the White House bunker, it's proof that at least some of them are finally getting serious at all.


Jonah Goldberg is editor of Proud to be Right: Voice of the Next Conservative Generation. He is also a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.








If you want to learn something about the impact of social media, you might try discerning fact from fiction in The Social Network, a new movie that purports to tell the story of how Facebook came into existence.


But if what you're looking for is a quick primer on the real-life impact that social media have had on our society, you don't have to spend two hours in a dark theater surrounded by people who may not be your (Facebook) friends. Just type the names "Tyler Clementi" and "Anthony Graber" into a search engine.


What happened to Clementi and Graber is a troubling commentary on an individual's expectation of privacy in a world overrun by technology that all too often peers behind the curtains of our lives. But their stories also are proof of just how much social media have reinforced Marshall McLuhan's prophesy that "the medium is the message."


Sadly, Clementi committed suicide after his roommate and another student allegedly used a webcam to surreptitiously transmit a sexual encounter the 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman had in his dorm room with another male. The roommate, Dharun Ravi, then used his Twitter account to say he would broadcast another live sex act involving Clementi.


Apparently distraught by this humiliating invasion of his privacy, Clementi used his cellphone to make a final posting to his Facebook page: " Jumping off the gw bridge sorry." Moments later he plunged from the George WashingtonBridge into the Hudson River.


As tragic as what happened to Clementi is, his story has become an international cause célèbre, in no small part because it played out in cyberspace. Clementi complained about the video streaming of his sex act on a Yahoo gay message board, New York's Daily News reported. And less than two weeks after he used Facebook to bid this life adieu, a Facebook page created in his honor had over 106,000 supporters.


Graber, on the other hand, wasn't victimized by a peeping tom; he was accused of invading another person's privacy. The victim in his case, prosecutors in Harford County, Md., said, was the state trooper who arrested Graber earlier this year.


Graber was stopped while popping wheelies and riding at 80 mph in a 65-mph stretch of Interstate 95. The officer who pulled him over, wearing civilian clothes, jumped out of his unmarked car with his gun drawn. Only after ordering Graber to get off his bike did he identify himself as a law enforcement officer.


All of this was captured on the helmet camera Graber wore that day. He posted the video on YouTube a week later. Soon after that, the 25-year-old Maryland Air National Guardsman was arrested and charged with violating the state's arcane wiretap law, which prohibits recording a private conversation without the consent of everyone involved.


It didn't take long for Graber's case to be propelled through cyberspace — or for the Maryland attorney general's office to say cops who perform their official duties in public shouldn't have a legitimate expectation of privacy. Eventually, the charges against Graber were dropped.


Just as technology has turned our vast world into a global village, social media networks have given us access to a virtual town square. Clementi and his tormentors jockeyed for space there. Graber used it to rally people to his defense.


And because of this rapidly expanding medium, life for the rest of us will never be the same.


DeWayne Wickham writes weekly for USA TODAY.








The crisp air lately isn't the only good thing about the fall. The onset of autumn also marks the return of the annual George T. Hunter lecture series, which begins its third season tonight at UTC with an evening with renowned author Malcolm Gladwell. His four popular books — the first three attained No. 1 status on The New York Times best-seller list — reflect the stature and range of interest that has become characteristic of the lecture series.

Simply put, this series brings the best speakers to town. The four in each of the last two seasons have been the most interesting, dynamic, provocative and entertaining the sponsors could find. That each speaker is selected for their prominence in one of the four areas of interest on which the community-building series focuses — the arts, education, environment and major national and global issues — makes it all the better.


The speaker list for this season promises to match that standard. Gladwell makes a compelling keynoter. His first three books — "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make A Big Difference" (2000), "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" (2005) and "Outliers: The Story of Success" (2008) — helps readers understand and hone their intuitive skills and analytical powers. Those books, and his fourth, "What the Dog Saw" (2009), a compilation of his stories in The New Yorker, suggest attendees will be in for an engrossing and fast-paced evening.


The Hunter lecture series is sponsored by the Benwood Foundation in collaboration with UTC, The Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies and CreateHere. The goal is to promote a broader understanding of critical community issues and stimulate efforts to build a stronger, more cohesive community and better quality of life.


Though each speaker addresses different interests and different levels of engagement, each of the series' past speakers has offered unique viewpoints and insights. Madeleine Albright, the nation's first female Secretary of State, for example, provided personal insights into global political issues. Bill McKibben, the noted author of "The End of Nature," brought home the environmental crisis at both the macro and micro level. Frank McCourt, author of the best-selling "Angela's Ashes," gave his audience literary and historical insights and riveting, sometimes ribald, tales.


Fred Kent, founder of Project for Public Spaces, toured the city with devotees on bicycle, and showed us in his evening address a slide show reflecting the myriad ways that enriching public spaces can help revitalize, knit together and strengthen neighborhoods and city life. World-renowned historian Doris Kearns Goodwin not only brought Abraham Lincoln's biography to life; she also elicited guffaws with stories from our political and civic past from an overflow crowd that filled two theaters adjacent to the main Roland Hayes Theater. Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx, shared stimulating insights on improving communities in environmentally challenged neighborhoods.


Future speakers in this season's series should prove to be equally appealing speakers. Mayor Cory Booker, the November speaker, is gaining national acclaim for making Newark, New Jersey, the new standard for transformation and urban revitalization.


Geoffrey Canada, the prominent and passionate founder of the Harlem Children's Zone, will share lessons in February from his pioneering and uniquely successful work to guarantee high educational attainment from birth to college for children and families in 100 blocks of Harlem.


Dr. Vandana Shiva, India's world-renowned environmental leader and thinker, will travel here in April to speak on environmental issues.


Tonight's address by Gladwell will be at 7 p.m. in UTC's Roland Hayes Hall at the Fine Arts Center. The public is invited, and these great events are free.







The "travel alert" issued Sunday by the U.S. State Department that warns citizens to be aware of possible terrorist threats in Europe recognizes the ability of intelligence agencies to gather creditable information. It also underscores their inability to use that knowledge in a precise manner in many cases. Thus, the alert provides no specific information on possible targets. Rather, it urges travelers to be vigilant and cautious at popular tourist spots and transportation hubs. The information is helpful, but raises more questions than it answers for Americans already in Europe or about to embark on a trip there.


The alert issued Sunday is not the most severe the department issues. It is a level below a formal warning to avoid travel to a specific place. The current alert is based on information from a variety of intelligence sources. It outlines the possibility of a terrorist act in Europe — perhaps along the lines of the coordinated attack on multiple sites that claimed more than 165 lives in India in 2008. The worry is widespread. Britain issued a similar warning. The increased possibility of terrorist-inspired violence is a common concern across the globe.


German officials recently acknowledged they had information about possible al-Qaeda attacks in the United States and in Europe. In France, worry about terrorism is high, as evidenced by a recent evacuation of the Eiffel Tower and by the deployment of soldiers at two popular tourist sites in Paris. Italy and Germany already were on high alert. Such concern continues to expand.


On Monday, both Sweden and Japan cautioned citizens about travel to Europe. Even so, officials were careful to stress that the warnings were more cautionary than a response to a specific threat.


Patrick F. Kennedy, undersecretary of state for management, said Sunday that the U.S. advisory was issued to urge Americans to take "common-sense" precautions when traveling, not to discourage them from doing so. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Homeland Security Department said they currently have no indication that terrorists are targeting the United States or its citizens as part of a new threat against Europe. That does not mean, however, that U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad should ignore Sunday's alert .


A "creditable" threat is just that. A terrorist attack, if one comes, might have a specific target, but it is indiscriminate in the sense that anyone of any nationality that happens to be nearby may become a possible victim.


The U.S. alert, like similar warnings from other governments, is permits those who choose to travel to Europe and elsewhere to make informed decisions. It signals a willingness by the U.S. government to share, not hide, information in a way that conveys the seriousness of the situation without inducing unnecessary panic. The alert is a potent reminder that the world can be a perilous place. Forgetting that is to risk possible harm.







A headline in Saturday's Times Free Press read, "Brainerd debates buoying business."

The "debate" should be very brief. That's because Brainerd is an important and populous business and residential section of our city. We all should agree that we want Brainerd to serve all of our people well — and much more attractively.


The news story mentioned that many billboards and vacant buildings are part of what could otherwise be a more attractive landscape of an area with about 10,000 residents.


Isn't it obviously important for us to "do something" about remedying undesirable conditions?


Brainerd is centered on a fortunately wide main street. It carries heavy traffic to and from downtown and serves many people with countless services. But just "look at it!" It is not exactly "scenic" for the thousands who drive through Brainerd each day. Think what a wonderful thing it would be if there were just some "basic" and useful beautification efforts!


It's not really necessary to list all the possible suggestions: We all are aware of the needs. Meeting them would not necessarily require a large expenditure of money by the city, or by merchants and civic organizations. But a good plan carried out tastefully could pay off economically, as well as aesthetically.


Chattanooga is a wonderful community with many magnificent features — our mountains and ridges, river and lake, to mention just a few. But unfortunately, we must admit we have spoiled local nature in several ways with careless and unsightly development.


Sadly, Brainerd Road is not alone in that respect. Downtown Chattanooga and the riverfront have been tastefully beautified. But consider all of the "spokes" on which we travel between downtown and our varied residential sections. All of those spokes need some remedial "visual-attractiveness attention."


For economic reasons, we don't suggest we "do something" for all of them at once. But if we started with, say, Brainerd Road and McCallie Avenue, then followed over several months with beautification attention to South Broad Street, Riverside Drive, Cherokee Boulevard, Rossville Boulevard — you can name the others — we could make not only great scenic progress but also important economic progress.


Don't you believe sensible attention to overhead wires, proliferating signs and other such obviously unattractive things could begin to do wonders to resurrect our wonderfully scenic area in a delightful way that would be encouraging to Chattanooga residents and businesses, as well as our visitors?


We call Chattanooga the "Scenic City of the South." What happened? Why don't we wisely, reasonably, tastefully and economically begin to live up to that slogan — for the benefit of us all?







Many depend heavily on the Postal Service. We need good mail service for business and personal communication, and the Postal Service is provided for in the Constitution.


It may come as a shock, however, that our Postal Service is losing $6 billion this year, largely because of a drop in mail volume. That drop is linked to the recession and the growing use of the Internet for communications.


To the relief of many, federal regulators recently rejected a proposal to raise letter postage 2 cents.

But it is obvious that with multibillion-dollar annual losses, some undesirable changes — such as fewer delivery days — may be coming.







It has become painfully evident over the past two years of total Democrat control of Washington that the last thing America needs is one more government "intervention" that tries to micromanage the economy.


As examples of that, massive stimulus spending by Washington has not held down unemployment as promised, and ObamaCare socialized medicine has become an expensive grab-bag of unintended consequences despite being promoted as a way to cut spending.


A more recent "intervention" was Congress' approval of a bill that seeks to spend $30 billion to "help" community banks lend more money to small businesses.


But the lending program has run into a snag. In the words of The Associated Press, "Many of the community banks and businesses it's supposed to help don't want it."


But why turn down "free money"? Well, for one thing, money from government is never "free."


"Some say the federal money isn't worth it because they fear it will come with too much regulatory oversight," the AP reported. That's surely true. If you doubt that Washington uses money as leverage over those who get the money, just look at how much control the federal government has over our nation's public schools even though it provides only a small percentage of their funding.


But there's another problem with the lending program. It assumes businesses are not taking out loans simply because banks won't lend to them. But the key reasons they aren't borrowing are a lack of demand among consumers and high anxiety about where the economy and tax policies are heading.


"Bank executives say their customers don't want loans, even at low interest rates, because the sluggish economy has chilled expansion plans," the AP noted. In fact, more than 90 percent of small-business owners surveyed recently said they can get the credit they need. Lack of credit isn't their problem.


"Our business customers are mired in uncertainty and are reluctant to invest in their businesses," a Memphis banker told the AP.


Congress doesn't need to "do" certain things — such as creating costly new lending programs — so much as it needs to stop threatening to do other things — such as raising taxes.


Unfortunately, we live in a time when a majority in Congress seems convinced that government is never quite big enough. So long as Congress keeps "misdiagnosing" the problem as too little government, it's going to keep coming up with counterproductive "prescriptions" for more government.







There are pitfalls in organizing a big rally in our nation's capital, or anywhere else. One of those dangers is that uninvited radical groups or individuals may show up with their banners to seek media attention and mar the true purpose of the rally. Organizers cannot really be faulted when that happens.


But organizers of a large, pro-Democrat rally in Washington this past weekend warmly and openly welcomed radical groups to take part in their march.


The rally, called "One Nation Working Together," did include a number of mainstream organizations. Those were liberal groups such as labor unions, the Sierra Club and the NAACP.


But also named on the organizers' website as official endorsers of the march were lots of overtly radical organizations such as the Communist Party USA, the International Socialist Organization and the Democratic Socialists of America.


It is troubling that organizers proudly listed such organizations as official endorsers. The extremely bad judgment that shows should make the American people strongly question the political motives behind the so-called "One Nation Working Together" rally.









Earlier this year, we at the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review sought in our own small way to launch a domestic initiative on behalf of animal welfare. We decided that we needed an office cat. Strictly speaking, this probably does not comport with the general rules of Hürriyet Medya Towers, the office complex in which we occupy the 6th floor. But we decided that forgiveness would probably be more readily forthcoming than permission for the project. After all, the outdoor cafe behind the building is frequented by almost as many cats as people. Inviting one to move in with us seemed less than radical. So we readied ourselves, including taking care of such contingencies as a litter box and some feeding ritual on Saturdays, when we do not publish.


Alas, the project ran aground on the shoals of a serious allergy on the part of one staffer. So we are making due with a ceramic cat, a replica of the famous "Van cat" with differing eye colors and in this case, a smattering of İznik ceramic motifs.


All this is just introduction, a way of offering our own salute to the annual "World Animal Day," which was held internationally yesterday. Our point is that we do not think we are particularly unusual. Most Turks love animals. As a small bit of evidence, we would point to our reports in today's newspaper on the concerns over a sacred species of fish in Malatya and the moves by animal lovers in Erzurum that have successfully reinstated a cancelled ban on bear hunting. Recently, we also reported on the uproar against dolphin parks that resulted in the freeing of captive "Tom" and "Misha."


But that does not amount to an argument that the rights of animals are well-protected in Turkey. Quite the opposite. Animal friendly as we are, we have reported somewhat extensively on a petition to reclassify animal abuse as a criminal offense rather than a misdemeanor. We have noted the ugly dichotomy in law that makes a human's sexual assault on a domestic animal an offense with a jail term while the same assault on a street-dwelling creature nets the perpetrator no more than a fine. With the bayram "Feast of the Sacrifice" nearing, we also think it time to remember the needless pain and cruelty caused to animals by amateur butchers carrying out what should be a pious ritual without due sanctity to the object of sacrifice itself.


In short, there is much to be done. So we note with approval on the occasion of this just-passed annual day that the recent growing discussion of animal welfare in Turkey has gained the attention of Parliament where a commission is now set to begin the drafting of an overhaul of animal rights law. There are many things occupying Turkey's social and political agenda. But the protection of defenseless creatures should not be lost among them.


Meanwhile, we have not yet totally surrendered on the idea of an office cat.







We, as a group of people, gathered in front of the Court House in Beşiktaş, Istanbul, to protest the detention of Hanefi Avcı.


I was attracted by a serious contradiction. People supporting Avcı are leftists who were tortured by him in the past. I was the only one not like them. No liberals or democrats were there. Nationalist-moralists, with whom Avcı reached consensus in the past, were not among us either.


That is to say, there is not even a single "liberal," "democrat," and "nationalist-moralist" questioning why Avcı is aiding and abetting a communist-terrorist organization though he is a nationalist-moralist.


Or some "democrats," "liberals," and "nationalist-moralists" do not smell the odor of the Golden Horn anymore!


Some openly say that they are not interested in Avcı's book. In fact, for them, the easiest thing in the world is to tell the truth. For instance, slain Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink is dead and sits back in the grave now for choosing the easiest way!


Some others are talking about "revenge." Others are lowering the level of conversation to mention about his extramarital affair.


Yet some others are publishing secret depositions delivered to themselves.


Some say his extramarital affair is not important but his being a torturer is.


Gentlemen! Why are you ignoring the claims Avcı makes in his book?


Are these gentlemen reading only short documents served to them since the book is thick? Or are they writing articles with no content at all as the requirement of being so-called "intellectuals"?


What is Avcı claiming?


1) His two private cell phones were wiretapped through an illegal permission given two young men. (Text served to the pro-government includes conversations of the Revolutionary Path member (!) Necdet Kılıç. According to Avcı 4,000-5,000 people were wiretapped with no name and number being submitted, only through IMEI numbers on devices.


2) The Security Intelligence Department possesses special wiretapping equipments that are not registered by the state.


Regarding these two serious claims, Avcı also claims that he informed interior and justice ministers in addition to deputy prime minister undersecretary, the Istanbul chief prosecutor, the private court acting chief justice and the security director about the fact that he was wiretapped illegally and secretly.


1) Avcı says that he sent the Interior Ministry on Jan. 6, 2010, a copy of the form included in the book (pg: 488-492). Security Director General Oğuz Kaan Köksal, on the other hand, says (on Jan. 28, 2010) that Avcı's application was not processed because the "minister is concerned that undersecretaries cannot be investigated" and returns his application (pg: 502).


2) On Jan. 12, 2010, Avcı submits another application to the Justice Ministry, a copy included in the book, and on the same day he met with the minister. Eighty days later, on March 31, 2010, he was given a null-and-void answer "Your application has been processed on March 25, 2010" (pg: 493-97).


 Through my column I keep asking to the two ministers:


Why did you not do anything about these two application forms? Are you not violating the state of law by not processing the forms?


I ask "liberals" and "democrats" who lost not only their sense of smell on the Golden Horn but also their conscientious:


When will you think of asking similar questions to the government?


*The title of the book Hanefi Avcı published before his arrest was "Haliç'te Yaşayan Simonlar: Dün Devlet Bugün Cemaat" – "Devotee Residents of Haliç: Yesterday State, Today Religious Congregation." Haliç is Turkish for the Golden Horn, which used to be famous for its infamously bad smell.








We, as a group of people, gathered in front of the Court House in Beşiktaş, Istanbul, to protest the detention of Hanefi Avcı.


I was attracted by a serious contradiction. People supporting Avcı are leftists who were tortured by him in the past. I was the only one not like them. No liberals or democrats were there. Nationalist-moralists, with whom Avcı reached consensus in the past, were not among us either.


That is to say, there is not even a single "liberal," "democrat," and "nationalist-moralist" questioning why Avcı is aiding and abetting a communist-terrorist organization though he is a nationalist-moralist.


Or some "democrats," "liberals," and "nationalist-moralists" do not smell the odor of the Golden Horn anymore!


Some openly say that they are not interested in Avcı's book. In fact, for them, the easiest thing in the world is to tell the truth. For instance, slain Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink is dead and sits back in the grave now for choosing the easiest way!


Some others are talking about "revenge." Others are lowering the level of conversation to mention about his extramarital affair.


Yet some others are publishing secret depositions delivered to themselves.


Some say his extramarital affair is not important but his being a torturer is.


Gentlemen! Why are you ignoring the claims Avcı makes in his book?


Are these gentlemen reading only short documents served to them since the book is thick? Or are they writing articles with no content at all as the requirement of being so-called "intellectuals"?


What is Avcı claiming?


1) His two private cell phones were wiretapped through an illegal permission given two young men. (Text served to the pro-government includes conversations of the Revolutionary Path member (!) Necdet Kılıç. According to Avcı 4,000-5,000 people were wiretapped with no name and number being submitted, only through IMEI numbers on devices.


2) The Security Intelligence Department possesses special wiretapping equipments that are not registered by the state.


Regarding these two serious claims, Avcı also claims that he informed interior and justice ministers in addition to deputy prime minister undersecretary, the Istanbul chief prosecutor, the private court acting chief justice and the security director about the fact that he was wiretapped illegally and secretly.


1) Avcı says that he sent the Interior Ministry on Jan. 6, 2010, a copy of the form included in the book (pg: 488-492). Security Director General Oğuz Kaan Köksal, on the other hand, says (on Jan. 28, 2010) that Avcı's application was not processed because the "minister is concerned that undersecretaries cannot be investigated" and returns his application (pg: 502).


2) On Jan. 12, 2010, Avcı submits another application to the Justice Ministry, a copy included in the book, and on the same day he met with the minister. Eighty days later, on March 31, 2010, he was given a null-and-void answer "Your application has been processed on March 25, 2010" (pg: 493-97).


 Through my column I keep asking to the two ministers:


Why did you not do anything about these two application forms? Are you not violating the state of law by not processing the forms?


I ask "liberals" and "democrats" who lost not only their sense of smell on the Golden Horn but also their conscientious:


When will you think of asking similar questions to the government?


*The title of the book Hanefi Avcı published before his arrest was "Haliç'te Yaşayan Simonlar: Dün Devlet Bugün Cemaat" – "Devotee Residents of Haliç: Yesterday State, Today Religious Congregation." Haliç is Turkish for the Golden Horn, which used to be famous for its infamously bad smell.








A previously unknown commentator by the name of "Azar Azadi" made some serious claims in the conservative English-language Israeli paper the Jerusalem Post on Sunday about the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP. Because it is known to be an influential paper, especially among members of America's Jewish community, one has no choice but to take anything said in the Jerusalem Post seriously.


Azadi's analysis about Turkey is no exception, and it is doubly important because it puts forward claims which if substantiated would point to serious breaches of the law by the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan requiring impeachment and punishment.


In his piece, carrying the headline, "Turkey: Europe's agent of change," Azadi maintains that the changes that come as a result of the recent constitutional amendments, accepted in the Sept. 12 referendum, allow Turkey to on the surface present its institutions as being those of an open and democratic nation.


"But looking under the hood, openness is receding. The questionable intentions of the ruling party, shady monetary sources and practices and the strengthening Islamist ideology of the ruling party have been slowly eroding Turkey's secular culture, undermining the power nationalists and the judiciary once had," Azadi says.


Going on to contend that "Islamists are slowly taking control of the Turkish economy," Azadi declares that this control is coming from the billions of dollars of unknown origin that are being funneled into the Turkish economy.


Maintaining that "the evidence of an economy built on green money is very visible" in Turkey, Azadi goes on to say that "countries such as Saudi Arabia and Malaysia have been funding the AKP since the early 2000s as part of their foreign policy to influence increased Islamist governance in Turkey [and globally]."


Recalling that Turkish and Iranian officials have vehemently denied reports in the British media that Iran was going to provide the AKP with millions in donations, Azadi nevertheless declares that if these claims were found to be true it "would not surprise many or seem out of character for the AKP."


According to Azadi, Turkey has also become an influential conduit for trade (and some espionage) for Tehran after sanctions on Iran were put in place. He goes on to claim that Iran has announced now that it will openly fund the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or İHH, the Turkish Islamic charity behind the Gaza flotilla in May.


Not content with all this, Azadi adds that there is also a real threat that some of the Hamas and Hezbollah drug money from South and Central America is finding its way to be laundered and recycled in Turkey due to the lack of any credible statistics on the sources of sudden prosperity in this country.


Much of what is said here will no doubt capture the imagination of many people in Turkey also, especially those who fear that the AKP is increasingly taking the country in an Islamic and radical direction. They will be happy to repeat these claims as proof of the AKP's bad intentions.


But it is incumbent on those contending these things to source their claims. Looked at from this perspective it is clear that much of Azadi's claims are open to serious scrutiny even if they ring true to many in Turkey and the West.


In addition to this there is a little note at the end of Azadi's analysis that is intriguing and proves to be the most interesting part of this controversial piece. It declares that "The writer is using a pseudonym to protect his/her identity."


In other words there is no "Azar Azadi" after all, and therefore the writer of this piece could be just about anyone. So who is it that is behind claims ranging from allowing Iran to launder drug money in Turkey, to receiving illicit political funding from Saudi Arabia, Iran and Malaysia?


Given the mystery surrounding the name of its author, what if someone were to suggest that the article is in fact no more than a not very subtle Mossad plant, aimed at influencing Jewish Americans against Turkey. Wild as this contention may be, it does not seem any wilder than some of the claims put forward by "Azar Azadi" – whoever she or he may be – without feeling the need to provide any corroborating evidence.


But who needs evidence if the aim is negative propaganda, given that uncorroborated claims will still leave a mark in minds even if they prove to be false in the end.








Has the "market" betrayed its believers or did it take revenge on unbelievers? Some people think that the free market order that old masters almost worshipped became too feeble to fight against swindlers during the recent crisis and thus must be discarded. The problem: What to put in place of it? For some, the answer is obvious: strict rules. Who will introduce these rules? Wise (!) men from the government side and from the private sector. But they have a bad track record. Their wisdom was not enough to understand what was going on. In this case, who can you trust? These incapable people, or again the markets?


Adam Smith, the so-called founder of the science of economics and a Scottish scholar, in his famous book "Wealth of Nations" published in 1777 defended the idea that all men are rational. As consumers they try to maximize their satisfaction or as producers, their total net profit. This kind of rationality, which still cannot be comprehended properly, is a subjective, rather than objective, concept. It means nobody has the right to give advice to anybody about what is rational.


According to Smith, when everybody maximizes their interest, national wealth will also be automatically maximized. Naturally they must be free to take action to realize their decisions. This was the first attempt to introduce the idea of economic liberalism and for that reason this book immediately became a best seller even in continental Europe, where the author was totally unknown before. However, that does not mean people are also free to not obey ethical rules. Men must take care of ethics as they try to maximize interests. Is this a realistic approach? Smith tried to find an answer to this problematic question until the end of his life.


However, it is understood now that if people do not care about ethical rules, neither the market mechanism nor strict rules can prevent not only domestic but also worldwide crises. Some people might think the market mechanism has no power to prevent such serious crises. It is obvious that it has the power to penalize the institutions and even persons who do not obey ethical rules.


The problem is that innocent people are also being penalized. But are we sure all of them are innocent? Why can they not comprehend that "bubbles" have no future and someday they generally burst? The reason is obvious: They desire to gain much in a very short time without any serious effort.


Now it is time to discuss whether new strict rules can prevent wrongdoings in financial markets. As the most efficient penalty laws cannot prevent all robberies, murders and similar crimes, newly introduced strict rules can put only a definite limit to deceiving actions in the markets. Deceivers must be penalized, but rules which are fully deterrent against all wrongdoings have not been invented yet. It is almost impossible to overwhelm the wisdom (!) of cheaters who always find an imaginative way to deceive people.


A question comes to mind immediately. If this is the cruel reality, do authorities stay still and wait for new wrongdoings in financial markets which might create new crises? The answer is, of course, a big "no." However, as new rules are being sought and are implemented, the market mechanism must not be neglected. Otherwise, it will take revenge this time not only on "immorals," but also on decent but "stupid" people.


In short, the market mechanism works like natural law. It determines a price for every act and, like laws of nature, it is impossible to change. If all people accept this reality and obey the rules of the free market mechanism, this will bring benefits to all. Unjust income distribution, poverty and unemployment are not the faults of the market mechanism as some intellectuals claim but the faults of politicians, bureaucrats and businesspeople who cannot comprehend how markets function.








The adoption of the constitutional reform package in the referendum in Turkey has been rightly welcomed by the European Union as a step in the right direction.


Establishing an ombudsman institution, restricting the authority of the military courts to matters exclusively related to military duties, introducing the positive discrimination for women, enhancing the rights of children, elderly and handicapped people, strengthening the data protection of the citizens are steps that bring Turkey closer to the EU values. However, the reform will make little difference in terms of Turkey's progress toward the EU, unless accompanied by decisive steps to overcome the deep polarization of the Turkish society, to implement the adopted changes in line with the EU standards and to deal with urgent outstanding issues, such as Cyprus and the Kurdish question.


As EU officials have repeatedly regretted, a wide, inclusive consultation process involving all relevant actors did not precede the reform in Turkey. For constitutions to be stable and effective, there needs to be a broad consensus across the political spectrum and the civil society at large both on substance and on procedures for adopting and amending them. A profound lack of trust between the government and the opposition, radical disagreements about the nature, intentions behind and the ultimate effects of the changes prevented such a consensus from taking hold.


Now that the package has been adopted, the extent to which it will have a real impact on Turkey's progress toward the EU will depend on how it is implemented. This is especially true in the case of the most controversial amendments concerning the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, or HSYK. The fact that the minister of justice chairs the council and his secretary of state is his substitute, as well as subjecting the investigative authority of the supreme board to the approval of the minister of justice, raise concerns about the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, and the separation of powers. Widening the composition of the courts can make them more representative, but given the polarized nature of the Turkish politics, it also stokes fears that the government may pack them with the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, loyalists and religious fundamentalists.  


The package also stipulates that the president appoints 14 of the Constitutional Court's 17 judges. If the aim of the reform is democratization, the parliament should have been granted a real power over their confirmation. To dispel concerns that the Turkish government is using the reforms to establish the control over the judiciary, it should ensure the accountability, transparency, dialogue and spirit of compromise in the implementation of the reforms. The European institutions will monitor these developments very closely. In addition, the opposition and the civil society groups should be encouraged to maintain a regular dialogue with the EU and report their concerns and suggestions.


This is the case with other reforms as well. For example, introducing the principle of positive discrimination for women is a very positive development. But there are still discriminatory provisions in laws, for example a provision that allows genital examinations of a woman to be performed without her prior consent. Progress in such areas as the fight against domestic violence and unpaid agricultural work is painfully slow. In some areas, such as women's employment and political participation there is a noticeable downward trend. There are disturbing cases of senior female bureaucrats being bypassed in promotions in the state institutions essentially for no reason other than their gender. In order to render the constitutional change meaningful, Turkey should adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, in line with the EU standards. It should also include other groups that suffer from discrimination, such as gay and transgender people.


While Turkey has been absorbed for the most part of the year by the debate on the constitutional changes, no progress has been achieved on other vital issues, such as Cyprus. Turkish frustration with the EU's inability to deliver on its own decision of 2004 to establish direct trade links with the Turkish Cypriot community is easy to sympathize with. However, Turkey's relationship with the EU is asymmetric: it is Turkey who wants to join the EU, not the other way around. And joining the club without recognizing one of its members is clearly out of question. Certain compromises, however difficult, should be acceptable for the long-term benefit of the accession. Turkey could, for example, start pulling out some of its troops from Turkish Cyprus, or open some of its ports or airports to the Republic of Cyprus. If no progress on Cyprus is achieved before the end of the year, it will give more ammunition to those in Europe who argue that Turkey should never be allowed to join the EU. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is widely credited with improving Turkey's relations with its neighbors, as well as his mediation efforts between other countries. But can he pull a trick in what is arguably his own country's most complicated foreign policy conundrum – the Cyprus question? 


Turkey deserves credit for approving the constitutional reform package, which, on the whole, is a step forward. Now it should be encouraged by its friends in Europe to build bridges between different segments of Turkish society and find creative solutions to the most difficult issues, such as Cyprus and the rights of the Kurdish population. Europe should help by sticking to its promises and keeping the accession perspective for Turkey alive.


* Eldar Mamedov is an international-relations analyst based in Brussels.








The long-expected spring in Turkish politics which was triggered with an unplanned get-together of the prime minister and the main opposition party on the sidelines of convention of an NGO unfortunately fell victim to the grotesque sensitivity in this country on semantics and symbolism.


If a solution is wanted by both the government and the opposition party to the headscarf problem, what difference would it make how the piece of cloth covering the heads of some women is described, even though descriptions might reflect intentions, affiliations, political orientation further than an honest urge to abide with the perceived requirement of subscribing to Islam?


Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan insisted on describing it as "scarf" while the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu preferred to describe it as "turban" and the long-sought communication between the government and the opposition collapsed over the disagreement in description. It is like a bad joke, but that's indeed what has happened.


That was most probably what Erdoğan thought of the very moment he suggested to Kılıçdaroğlu at that accidental get-together that they jointly act on the perennial headscarf problem at universities while he showed a cold shoulder to demands of the opposition to write a new and democratic constitution before the elections scheduled for June next year. A resolution to the headscarf problem would mean the AKP entering the next elections with one important propaganda bullet missing in its election campaign revolver. How would he be able to use the much-accustomed "Make us stronger so that we can resolve the headscarf problem" jargon in the campaign if he agreed to resolve the problem now with the help of the opposition? On the contrary, the prime minister raised the idea with the aim and hope that disagreements would emerge between him and the opposition and he would obtain the probability of turning to the nation and saying, "Look, they say they want a resolution to the headscarf issue but don't let us solve it." That was precisely why in this column I had warned the CHP leader not to fall into such a trap and allow himself and the CHP to become an election ploy of the prime minister once again.


While the country is heading to fresh polls in nine months' time, a fight over secularism, the headscarf or such rhetoric rather than the economy, the high cost of living, unemployment and of course national sensitivities over the Kurdish opening, that is politically a killer and the real agenda of the country, is exactly what the prime minister has been hoping for.


Semantics and symbolism are important in Turkish society, as they are in other societies of this region. What is said and how it is said are often far more important than what indeed is said. Rather than talking with some ambiguous slogans, Kılıçdaroğlu and the new "positive opposition" mentality in the CHP should work harder to explain themselves to the Turkish society and to provide flesh to what they have been trying to say. Otherwise, the CHP will continue to be exploited by the prime minister.


All this being said, there is indeed a huge difference between a "scarf" and a "turban." A "scarf" is a piece of cloth, attire, part of the women's outfit that does not have any religious, social or communal connotation. It is not definitely a symbol of any religious, communal or social belonging.


A turban, on the other hand, was intentionally made over the years as a symbol of political Islam. Because of the hot debate over it for almost the past three decades, it has become one of the strongest political manifestation tools. That is, through the intentional efforts of political Islam, it has become the symbol of belonging to a religion as well to a political ideology and thus being perceived by those scared of a risk to their lifestyle as the flag of the advancing threat.


Yet, irrespective whether it is a "traditional head cover" or a "symbol of political Islam" it is quite difficult to understand why a piece of cloth on the head might become a serious detriment to the university education rights of thousands of young girls. Turkey should be able to find a way of resolving this problem in a mutually acceptable manner and restore the education rights of the young girls who, right or wrong, believe their religion compels them to cover their heads.


Right, the prime minister has been exploiting the turban issue to advance AKP adamancy, but the CHP should also stop approaching the issue with superfluous discussions over shape or color of the headscarf fabric or how the headscarf should be tied.









The Chief of Religious Affairs Prof. Dr. Ali Bardakoğlu is an extremely respected and knowledgeable person. And it's very lucky for us to have someone like him head Religious Affairs. No one questions his knowledge or ability.


I read an article written by Bardakoğlu last weekend. He talked about a new project that Religious Affairs is about to employ (providing religious services outside the mosque). I know that papers tend to shorten such speeches so I was a little reserved. After listening to the project we may have a better idea. But even this much has created suspicion.


If I got Bardakoğlu right he wants the imam to be a person who also gives advice in difficult situations or how to behave when in trouble and not a person who only helps people perform their prayers. If a person or family is facing difficulty s/he or they should be able to consult the imam in their neighborhood. A new mechanism is being established to provide for such services.


What first stroke me was the question, "Even if it seems to be very helpful, doesn't assuming a very important function like opinion leader go beyond the capacity of our imams?


The staff of Religious Affairs is not all the same. It can't be.


Some imams are bright, living in the present, educated and civilized.


But some view everything in between the lines of the Quran, view everything through the window of religion. Daily life is entirely shaped according to Islamic order.


And this is exactly the greatest drawback of all.


Of course it is something else if we want society to dry out, become introverted and extract ourselves from reality. But if we want a Turkey which we dream of then we should not need any opinion leaders.


I accept that religious men are important to give direction to our society. But we need not oblige them with duty beyond their knowledge and capacity.


It should do if they only protect this society from weirdoes and those who call themselves hodja trying to earn money and fame by misinterpreting the Quran.


There is no need for more.


I hope gendarmerie knows what it's doing


The issue around the Savarona is becoming more complicated by the day.


One of the richest people in the world, Tevfik Arif, and many Russian businessmen well-known in their countries were busted while having fun with women on the famous ship Savarona which they rented.


As far as we could tell from the papers it was called "Prostitution with the intent of Human Trafficking."


It is difficult to comprehend a man with billions in investment would do human trafficking.


Arif also didn't seem to comprehend because he said: "What's it to you. I spend my money on renting a yacht and was having fun with my friends. What harm could there be?"


I hope the gendarmerie in Antalya knows what it's doing.


If they busted the ship because "there is sex taking place" then we would hurt this country very much. For, with this mentality they'd have to bust each and every hotel in Turkey locking their owners behind bars.


Besides, if they cannot prove that Arif really conducted Prostitution with the Intend of Human Trafficking then Turkey will encounter great financial and emotional loss.



The gendarmerie needs to clarify these issues.


Conspiracy everywhere


Last weekend I read about two conspiracy news.


I'd die if I don't tell.


The first one was based on Prof. Yusuf Ziya Özcan, head of the Higher Education Board, or YÖK. I don't know why he said it or within which frame but he scared people by saying, "If we eat tomatoes produced from the seeds purchased from the United States or Israel."


His exact words painting a disaster scenario are as below:


"There is such thing as genetic programming. A genetic mechanism is being placed within the seeds which may cause disease we never heard of. People who consume these seeds will die within 20 years. You may extinguish a whole nation this way."


An extremely difficult and the probability very low scenario, not worth arguing about created panic when the words were spoken by the head of the YÖK. He confused the minds of society that lives with conspiracy theories all along a little further.


The other one was based on Prof. Dr. Ahmet Işıkara.


Just as gossip regarding the United States and Israel digging holes and thus creating the Marmara earthquake was spreading former Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit asked Işıkara to research this conspiracy, believing it was true.


Thank God, Işıkara is a healthy scientist who calmed him down saying, "Sir, please don't believe such nonsense."


We know how curious the Ecevit family was about conspiracies.

Mrs. Rahşan Ecevit, you may remember, asked to limit the number of foreigners buying real estate in Turkey because they may get a hold of the country if this course was to continue. Whereas around the world rich people are invited to buy property in different countries, we misinterpret it, thinking of a conspiracy.








The good news is that something is finally going to be done about the pirates who infest the Somali coast and raid far out into the Indian Ocean. A group of London-based insurance companies led by the Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group, or JLT, is planning to create a private navy to protect commercial shipping passing through the Red Sea and the northwestern Indian Ocean.


It's about time. Even now, after the monsoon season has kept the pirates relatively quiet for months, 16 ships and 354 sailors are being held captive in the pirate ports along the Somali coast. The average ransom paid to free those ships and their crews has risen to around $4 million, and it's also taking longer: an average of almost four months between the hijacking of a ship and its release.


It's the maritime insurance companies that pay the ransoms, and they are deeply unimpressed with the performance of the warships from various NATO and other nations patrolling the region. Even when the warships do catch some of the pirates, they often let them go again because they are operating under severe legal constraints.


So a fleet of 20 fast patrol boats crewed by well-armed mercenaries could be just what the doctor ordered. Unhampered by the legal considerations that paralyze the navies, they could just kill the pirates wherever they found them and dump their bodies into the sea.


True, this would deny them the privilege of a fair trial, but that's not really necessary. The crime is being a pirate, not some specific act of piracy, so you don't have to catch them in the act. When you find men hundreds of kilometers from shore in an open boat, equipped not with fishing gear but with automatic weapons and ladders to scale the sides of passing ships, there is really no room for argument. They are pirates.


The bad news is that this is not what the insurance companies are planning to do at all. Instead, this private navy would operate under the direct control of the international naval force that is already in the area, with "clear rules of engagement valid under international law." What a pity. That's exactly what is crippling the navies.


"We would have armed personnel with fast boats escorting ships, and make it very clear to any Somali vessels in the vicinity that they are entering a protected area," JLT Senior Partner Sean Woollerson told The Independent newspaper in London. In other words, if you have insured your ship with JLT or its associates and paid the anti-piracy insurance premium (up to $450,000 per voyage for a supertanker), then you will be escorted by this private navy.


The pirates, not being complete fools, will just go and attack other ships instead. (JLT and its associates insure about 14 percent of the world's commercial shipping fleet). There is still no actual plan to get rid of the pirates.


How can it have come to pass that we have a major pirate problem in the 21st century. They sorted that out in the early 18th century. Why has it got unsorted again?


Blame international law. When they were codifying the law of the sea back in the 1970s, the world had no pirate problem worth talking about. So they dropped the rule of "universal jurisdiction" that had been the key to suppressing piracy in the bad old days.


"Universal jurisdiction" meant that every navy could arrest suspected pirates of any nationality and try them under its own national laws, since pirates had been defined as "the enemies of all mankind." A British warship could arrest Portuguese pirates off some Caribbean island belonging to the Netherlands, and they would be tried under British law. If they were captured in battle, they could be summarily executed.


That's how piracy was wiped out in the first place. But when they were writing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in the 1970s, there were no pirates any more, so they dropped the rule of "universal jurisdiction" in favor of a legal regime more attuned to modern notions of human rights and national sovereignty.


What has replaced those old rules, in practice, is a legal quagmire where you can never be sure who has legal jurisdiction. So the navies (which could easily suppress the piracy if they were free to act) refrain from using force and are reluctant even to arrest people at sea who are quite obviously pirates.


To extinguish piracy again, we need a modernized version of the old rules. That requires prompt action to create a comprehensive international agreement that gets around the Law of the Sea – tricky, but that's what diplomats get paid for. And if we got such an agreement, we wouldn't even need private navies. The regular navies would be happy to do the job.


There is one other issue, of course. If we use serious force against the pirates, they will threaten to use force against their captives. Some of them might be killed. But since there will never be a time when there are no captives in the hands of the Somali pirates until and unless we crack down hard, that is a risk that we just have to take.


Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.








Concentrated solar power systems employ lenses or mirrors coupled with tracking systems to concentrate a large area of sunlight into a small beam, much like the simple and familiar burning effect from magnifying lenses. The concentrated energy may be used to heat a central "boiler" to run a power plant fitted with a conventional steam turbine from which electricity is generated in the usual manner. A quite broad range of methods may be used to accomplish this, e.g. the parabolic trough, the solar (parabolic) dish and the solar power tower.


All such systems contain a working fluid that is heated by the concentrated sunlight, and then used to generate power or to store energy. In a parabolic trough there is a linear parabolic reflector that concentrates sunlight into a receiver oriented along its focal line. By means of a tracking system, the reflector follows the sun during the daylight hours along a single axis. Trough systems are the most efficient of any solar technology in regard to the land area occupied by the plant. The SEGS plants in California and the Acciona Nevada Solar One near Boulder City, Nevada are based on trough systems.


A parabolic (solar) dish system consists of a single parabolic reflector that concentrates light at the focal point of the reflector, which tracks the sun along two axes. Of all the concentrated solar power technologies, parabolic dish systems are the most efficient. The 50 kW Big Dish in Canberra, Australia is an example of this technology. The Stirling solar dish combines a parabolic concentrating dish with a Stirling heat engine that drives an electric generator. The term "Stirling" refers to the fact that the device operates on a simple heat-engine principle. Stirling solar energy production is more efficient than photovoltaic cells and the technology has a longer lifetime.


A solar power tower consis